Sunset strip steak

Photo By Kelley Lang

Tony and I impulsively decided on a recent Monday evening to hop in the car for a ride to the lake. That we would be watching the sun go down from the 18th floor of Harrah’s Lake Tahoe didn’t upset the business/pleasure mix one iota.

The undeniable beauty of Lake Tahoe sets the backdrop for a romantic evening, complete with breathtaking sunsets nearly every night. The view from the expansive picture windows was spectacular. The other details of the restaurant were restrained and refrained from trying to compete with the lush natural surroundings. The multi-level dining room allows almost everyone a nice view. There was an aura of pleasant wine-induced languor.

After having a cocktail at the elegant bar, we were escorted to a table by a corner window. The table was nicely appointed with creamy linens and a lovely setting with a green-bordered charger plate. A simple bud vase with fresh flowers set a tasteful tone.

The menu is classical, with a few twists thrown in. Emphasis is naturally on the basic surf-and-turf standards, with an occasional but interesting dish for vegetarians. One wild mushroom appetizer caught my eye as a nice alternative to meat. Most of the dishes are focused on classical preparations I remember from culinary school and would definitely be against my doctor’s orders to lower my cholesterol. This is no-holds-barred gourmet, the fancy stuff usually reserved for anniversaries and the like. Any more than that would probably kill you from the richness. The wine list has some impressive selections in a decent range of prices.

Entrees here come with a salad, and we both chose the house, a mix of baby field greens with croutons and herb vinaigrette. With a healthy grind of fresh black pepper from the oversized grinder, it was fresh and light with just the right acidic bite.

We shared an order of escargot ($10). It came in the classic escargot dish, with deep holes to dunk your bread in after fishing out the delicate snails. The twist on this dish was the fresh basil and roasted garlic pesto butter that was decadent and profoundly aromatic. The escargot was tender and steaming hot. If you have never tried this classic French dish, this is a good example of how it should be done.

Tony’s New York steak au poivre ($33) was crunchy on the outside, with a thick layer of mignonette pepper coarsely ground with the back of a sauté pan, no doubt. While the pepper crust kept the meat tender and juicy, it proved to be a tad overwhelming. Perfectly creamy garlic mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables, including asparagus, made for a reasonably large plate of food.

I went totally classic and tried the Veal Oscar ($27). The thin medallions were gently sautéed, topped with crabmeat and draped with a velvety and tarragon-laden béarnaise sauce. Rosemary roasted potatoes and vegetables created a colorful presentation. After several bites, the effect was just slightly too salty for my taste, but I will admit to having a sensitive palate for such things.

Dessert was fantastic. There was a dessert that Tony and I could share, which is rare, since I am a chocoholic and he prefers vanilla. So we got the Valrhona chocolate cake ($6), with caramelized bananas and vanilla gelato. It was served on an oversized plate that was artfully garnished. The warm chocolate cake had an almost cinnamon-coffee quality, as most fine chocolate does. I was totally in a state of bliss.

As hectic as life gets, sometimes you have to break out of the routine and have a little adventure. Do something lavish for no reason and treat yourself like the precious person that you are. And while you are at it, make sure you get something good to eat.