Fanciful feast

Executive chef Heather Beaupre Howell prepares the sauteed shrimp appetizer.

Executive chef Heather Beaupre Howell prepares the sauteed shrimp appetizer.

Photo/Allison Young

When my sister and I were kids, our mother purchased inexpensive stemware so we’d learn how to properly hold and drink from adult glasses. Plain ice water transformed into … fancy ice water. Her goal was to prepare us for the day we’d be “dining at the governor’s mansion.” That day has yet to arrive, but I did try to mind my Ps and Qs at one of Reno’s newest “white linen” restaurants, Suite 103.

White tablecloths with expertly fanned cloth napkins. Place settings of which my home ec teacher would approve. Leather seats, tasteful artwork, dark wood canopy bar, jazz standards crooning softly in the background and a view of Reno’s nightlife through huge windows. It’s old-school by design, unsurprising given that the husband-and-wife team responsible for this experience are veteran providers of fine dining service in larger, more cosmopolitan settings.

The theme is Mediterranean with Moroccan flair, but this is no simple kebab-and-couscous bistro. The menu includes expected flavors, but the evening’s specials stirred our interest. We enjoyed warm flatbread with housemade hummus to start things off.

A saute of shrimp ($10), with tomatoes, herbs, garlic, onion and a blend of spices, had a great balance of zip and tang, and the shrimp was cooked just right. This was followed by “Shrimp Cigars,” a mix of minced shrimp and other ingredients wrapped in cylinder of phyllo, sliced in half and served upright in a pool of mildly sweet sauce ($9). The filling had a creamy—almost cheesy—texture, but was actually a blend of herbs, vegetables and shrimp. Both appetizers were delicious.

We next shared a serving of stew with plenty of Moroccan influence, including diced vegetables, fresh herbs, and long-simmered meat in harmony with saffron and other spices ($6). It was hearty yet delicate.

Our entrees were each served with a mildly-seasoned pilaf of short-grain rice and a diced saute of zucchini, corn and carrots that were simple but tasty. My wife chose steak and cake ($37), featuring a section of pan-seared New York strip prepared as if filet—small and thick—topped with a Oaxacan onion marmalade. The steak was paired with a crispy rockfish cake finished with a preserved lemon aioli (the lemons brined in-house over several weeks). Each item was full of flavor and prepared with skill, but I think the price might be a little high for what was on the plate, especially when compared against my entree.

An apple-stuffed prime rib of pork with a rosewater glaze is not something I’d normally order, because I’m not a fan of pairing pork chops with applesauce. I generally prefer meat dishes to be savory, but I couldn’t resist this creation ($25). The biggest pork chop I’ve ever seen was stuffed with a mince of apples, spices and possibly nuts. The glaze was finished with some kind of crumbled coating, but I was so busy eating I forgot to ask about the details. Based on my history, I shouldn’t have liked this, but I ate the whole thing and enjoyed it despite myself.

Three dessert options were offered and our server noted we could try all three as a sampler plate ($14). The baklava was a bit dry and not terribly sweet despite the brittle, caramelized sugar it came with, but whiskey chocolate cake made up for it. Dense and brownie-like, a powerful punch of dark chocolate drizzled in boozy, fudgey goodness with whipped cream and berries on the side. Best of all, a slice of chocolate mousse pie that was light, creamy, and possibly my wife’s favorite part of the meal. Looking to impress a date, propose marriage or celebrate an anniversary? Suite 103 should be at the top of your list.