Food with a view

Perched atop hills, hotels and skyscrapers, “view restaurants” can be tricky. Their magnificent vistas imply dining experiences to match. But these vistas also mean such establishments sometimes get lazy, trusting panoramic delights to distract diners from lapses in food or service.

Llewellyn’s, located on the 19th floor of Harvey’s Resort, doesn’t generally practice this culinary sleight of hand. The restaurant presents continental dishes with authority. Five wait staffers assisted me and my dinner companion—a healthy ratio.

But kitchen missteps and two servers who loudly discussed personal concerns disappointed the expectations raised by Llewellyn’s location, prices and reputation. This is a shame, because with a few corrections, Llewellyn’s could be truly outstanding.

Until then, the view remains the restaurant’s chief attraction. Balustrades organize the dining room into levels so patrons without window seats can still enjoy Lake Tahoe from on high.

First courses laid a strong gustatory foundation. Firm grilled prawns ($12) were wrapped in subtly smoky slices of prosciutto. These seafood baubles decorated a cap-shaped portion of tabbouleh stuck with a rosemary sprig “feather.” Pesto Caesar dressing deepened the flavors of this whimsical, edible hat.

Lobster bisque ($8) continued the millinery theme, the serving ramekin and its puff pastry cover together resembling a miniature chef’s toque. I broke through the pastry to the velvety liquid within. Marvelous! Unlike restaurants that rely on seafood stock, Llewellyn’s bisque included actual bits of lobster.

Hints of vanilla in a confidently mellow 1998 Benzinger merlot ($33 a bottle) added complexity to the first courses while preparing the palate for the main courses to follow.

The wild boar tenderloin ($27) was accomplished. It was deftly cooked, succulent and tender. A dried fig and cherry compote provided a lightly sweet counterpoint to the forthrightness of the flesh. Too bad the accompanying potato pancakes were burned on the bottom.

Imported Dover sole (market price) was prepared Grenoble style, which means it was sautéed and garnished with parsley, capers, lemon segments and fried croutons. The fish had a fine, gently yielding texture. Side potatoes were charmingly sculpted to look like mushrooms. Asparagus spears stood crisply at attention in the mouth.

Unfortunately, about midway through the Dover sole, an overly lemony, slightly oily film began to dismantle what had been a beautifully coherent presentation of tastes.

Llewellyn’s regained its culinary footing with sweets. A hemisphere of silky buttermilk panna cotta ($6) was festooned with warm cherry compote and jaunty chocolate swizzle sticks. The panna cotta was so delicate it seemed almost to dissolve on the tongue.

Crème brûlée ($6) was substantial without sacrificing lightness, and I never tire of the contrast between the crunchy caramelized sugar topping and the creamy custard beneath. In less sure hands, this classic dessert can be an eggy mess, but not here.

Complimentary milk chocolate squares completed the evening and left me thinking of the future.

With greater attention to food preparation, service etiquette and ambiance, Llewellyn’s could take its place alongside the culinary stars of Las Vegas and San Francisco. I look forward to that day.