Up on the hill

The Hilltop was something of a Reno landmark. With its panoramic view of Reno and well-appointed, oversized bar, it was an upscale neighborhood establishment catering to the well-heeled Caughlin Ranch community in which it was located. When it closed, I was rather surprised. But it seems the owners have decided to open another, more family-friendly place in the near future.

Moxie’s has opened up in the Hilltop’s old digs. Other than some minor seating changes, the room is pretty much the same. Greeted by the bar upon entry, diners find seating available on either side, the right looking more like a restaurant while the left has tall bar tables against the large windows that overlook Reno. A small patio is just outside the windows.

When my friend, Jessica, and I arrived on Thursday night, the sign said to seat ourselves. We decided to take a seat near the window, which might not have been the best idea. The sun was blazing in the north-facing windows, and Jessica had to turn her chair to get out of the glare. This was a problem with the Hilltop as well, and it might be time to fix it.

We had to wait a bit to be served, but once our server appeared, she was friendly and efficient. The meals at Moxie’s come with soup or salad, so we decided to skip the appetizers, though stuffed artichoke, filled with bread crumbs, white wine, garlic and spices ($7.95) sounded pretty good.

The menu is small, filled with mostly standard fare. For the lighter appetite, there are salads and pasta dishes, while the entrée list is dominated by meats such as the Frenched veal chop ($19.95) and the prime rib dinners ($12.95-$18.95, depending on size of cut). As it was hot, we were looking for something lighter; Jessica decided on the angel hair pomodoro ($12.95), and I chose the poached salmon ($17.95).

Our house salads were fresh, and the balsamic vinaigrette dressing was very tasty, but there was way too much of it. There was a little pool at the bottom of my plate when I finished with the lettuce, and my croutons got a little soggy as well.

The presentation of our entrées was simple, but the portions were ample. My salmon had a dill hollandaise sauce, coupled with vegetables and grilled polenta, which I chose over the mushroom risotto and baked potato. The salmon was cooked perfectly with just enough sauce to complement the flavor. The vegetables, including zucchini and onions, were nicely prepared as well. My only complaint was that the grilled polenta was covered with a marinara sauce that didn’t really complement the other flavors and made the polenta soggy.

Jessica’s angel hair was tasty, with pine nuts, olive oil and fresh basil. But there were too few tomatoes, especially for a pomodoro (tomato in Italian) sauce. We counted six pieces.

Though we had some nitpicks about our dinners, we had only praise for our dessert. Our cheesecake ($4.75), drizzled with chocolate and surrounded by three puffs of whipped cream topped with fresh raspberries, was outstanding. Every bite was ecstatic.

If Moxie’s wants to be an upscale bar with good food, it is certainly on the right track. Though some of the prices seem a little out of line with the bar setting, the place offers a good alternative to those isolated in Caughlin Ranch.