Rib-eye in the sky
When you apply Asian flair to meat and potatoes, you get a flavor adventure and an unusual eating experience. At the Vista Grille in Sparks, owner Mark Hansen stepped up several months ago and brought in Chef Shakka Moore, a self-taught, industrious, creative foodie.
Moore spent more than a decade in the Far East and developed his culinary skills in the hotel industry at several international properties. He worked at the world renowned Roy’s of Honolulu and made his way to The Lone Eagle Grille at Incline. After a stint at Arrow Creek, he now wears two hats: He’s general manager at The Grove in South Reno and executive chef at the Vista Grille.
With a full bar, Vista Grille is reminiscent of a great old chop house with dark wood paneling and a high-ceiling with open gables. Proper linen tablecloths and napkins, polite staff, and tables and comfy booths make the room. The menu has a lot of descriptive adjectives suggesting flavors and tempting your indulgence ($13.99-$27.99). I liked that, and it encouraged me to allow the chef to select something. He couldn’t make up his mind, so he decided on a couple of dishes he thought would be memorable.
Chef delivered a house special, pan-braised venison filet ($27.99), that was so tender and moist atop root vegetables. It wasn’t very gamey, probably because it was New Zealand meat. Any game’s flavor depends on what the animal grazes on during its life, and grasslands cover that island nation with a mild climate, not stressing the animal like harsh winters in this country, resulting in a milder flavor and a tender cut.
The meat was covered with a red wine reduction complementing the layers of flavorful beets, potato, onion and squash. There are a lot of textures going on—the veggies were firm, not mushy, with savory, gravy flavors—an excellent winter fare.
For the big show came a Kalbi grilled rib-eye ($23.99), with caramelized shallot mashed potatoes, and julienne vegetables consisting of zucchini, carrots, red bell peppers and leeks, all included in the dinner. Kudos for the red bell peppers—better flavor, less acidity. Kalbi is a Korean barbecue sauce consisting of soy, garlic, apples, pears, ginger, lemongrass, sesame oil and seeds, pepper flakes and sugar. When reduced, it produces a glaze over the meat with subtle flavors of a savory sauce, with sweet and light spice overtones that congeal with this particular cut. The ribeye has fat and that helped bring life to this sauce. It was tender and juicy, and the Kalbi didn’t take away from the meat’s natural, succulent taste.
I was tempted to indulge in the banana bread pudding with butterscotch sauce with an almond praline ($7), or a sliced peach napoleon with white chocolate mousse ($7), but I was victorious in resisting—my belt already on the last notch with this job.
This plateful required a wine that had its own personality. The Klinker Brick ’08 Old Vine Zinfandel ($9) was screaming “choose me!” Produced from vines with an average age of 85 years, this wine is a mouthful with a bright bouquet of wild strawberry and plum, intermingled with cedar shavings. Filling the palate with flavors of black cherry and vanilla, supple tannins support good structure. The finish is smooth and long. The wine is from Lodi, one of the up-and-coming appellations in California. Wines by the glass are very reasonable, $6-$9, and the list is fairly extensive. Vista Grille won’t disappoint your sense of culinary adventure.