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Grilled Romaine Salad with Red Pepper Puree DressingOstrich with Potatoes and VegetablesPanna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries
Grilled Romaine Salad with Red Pepper Puree Dressing, Ostrich with Potatoes and Vegetables, Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

Lou Kostura
Name: Lou
Occupation: Airplane Mechanic and Horse Enthusiast
Location: Belmont
Favorite Restaurant: The Mountain House Restaurant
Reviewed The Mountain House Restaurant: Saturday, June 2, 2007

Just when you think The Mountain House can not possible be any better, it is.

We started out driving thru the fog on Highway 35, just to have it clear up just as we approached the restaurant nestled nicely in the Redwoods — always a retreat from the hustle bustle of the city and only a 20 minute drive from the peninsula. The building itself was built in the 1920’s and is painted a barn red. It has a very nice fireplace as you enter thru the bar and a second fireplace in the dining room. The dining room is decorated in antiques and old photos, and is romantically lit. A very nice, fully enclosed patio area with views of the Redwoods is available year round. Local horsemen often ride here from the peninsula and tie their horses to the hitching rails out front. The nice thing here is you can be comfortable in jeans as well as a tux — anything goes. You enter through the bar area and see many of the local folks just hanging out. We kind of see it as rustic elegance.

We were greeted by name when we entered and were promptly seated in the section of our favorite waiter, Wade. I glanced at the reservation book, and they had Wades’ name next to ours even without my asking. He has always taken great care of us over the years of us dining here and we usually request him as our server, however all the staff is extremely helpful and knowledgeable.

Drink orders were taken, and Wade told us about the nightly specials, he has a way of making everything sound so good (and it is). I just enjoy listening to him describe them even though I had just read them on the specials board. I think he could make ice cubes sound delicious to Eskimos.

We started out with an appetizer of pan-seared Cajun scallops over an avocado relish that was fantastic. We then ordered the night’s special salad, which was two grilled hearts of romaine lettuce in a red pepper vinaigrette with radishes, onion, and bell pepper. This was a large enough salad that we could have shared. Our entrees were both from the nightly specials board: the Alaskan halibut was served topped with a fresh tomato salsa and had a side of fresh veggies and rice pilaf, and the veal t-bone was served on top of caramelized onions with a Bing cherry demi-glaze and garlic mashed potatoes and fresh veggies. Portions were large, cooked to perfection. The halibut was light, flaky, and with a good flavor. The veal t-bone cooked rare and the 14-ounce cut melted in your mouth without chewing.

After the main course, we were too full to have dessert, even though there were two desserts on the specials board that sounded heavenly, and we have eaten desserts in the past here that were absolutely decadent. We did opt for a glass of olallieberry wine for dessert, which was like chewing on the berries themselves.

After dinner we retired to the small but nicely decorated smokers patio (away from anyone it might offend) to enjoy a fine cigar and to look up to the clear starry sky and the majestic Redwoods. We met four of the most interesting gentlemen who were enjoying a cigar after dinner and raving about the same things I felt myself. They, too, have been dining here for years.

The owner and chef Jerry comes into the dining room regularly to meet and greet everyone, check on everything, and just to say “hey” to regulars. A very family feel. Again, going to The Mountain House is a true dining experience. Quality and service are impeccable. Decor and atmosphere, romantic. Never rushed with food being brought too soon. It is our place to have special nights out, or even a Sunday lunch in the bar, as they have a nice bar menu also.

Marcia Kerwit
Name: Marcia
Occupation: Chi Gung and Tai Chi Instructor
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: Da Lian
Reviewed The Mountain House Restaurant: Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Mountain House is not my idea of fine dining. On the plus side was the setting outside (trees, quiet, rustic) and a comfortable dining room. The service was attentive to details. I’d made a reservation for three, and our table was waiting for us. The drive on a two-lane country road was pleasant (although it was an hour altogether from Oakland). Cars were parked in a seemingly haphazard way in the front and it was hard to avoid walking in some mud.

Now, to the food. My dinner companions started out with a Caesar salad and a grilled romaine salad with a red pepper puree dressing, and I had a taste of each. Both salads were tasty, and I would have enjoyed eating either one. The soup was bland, which was okay with me, but they bothered to put grated cheddar on the top, which melted and was stretchy and dripping from the spoon and had no real flavor. My companions had the salmon and the halibut and I also got a taste of each. They tasted like what they were, which was okay. My buffalo steak was good — I’d asked for rare and it was rare (what the French call “point bleu”) so that was a plus — and the onion/mushroom accompaniment was tasty. There was a large broccoli floret that was too al dente for my taste, and a whole carrot, which I thought was steamed but was actually raw. The mashed potatoes were billed as “garlic” mashed potatoes, but they must have just waved the clove over it.

For dessert, two of us shared the panna cotta with balsamic strawberries. The panna cotta by itself was like vanilla pudding out of the box in the sense of too much gelatin (instead of cream??), but when I ate a spoonful together with the strawberry slice, it was very tasty. I hadn’t thought of putting balsamic vinegar on fruit and that was a revelation, and the only part of the meal I really enjoyed.

No, I would not recommend this place to friends. I consider this meal on the expensive side but would have felt differently if the food had more panache. My choices from the menu were based on hoping that the simple dishes would be “perfect,” which I had found to be true at Entre Nous in San Francisco, for example, and many ethnic restaurants, and for a lot less money. I purposely avoided the dishes that had sauces that sounded like an attempt to be overly cosmopolitan, stylish, daring, or whatever.

Total Rating: so-so

Helen Tribble-Roberts
Name: Helen
Occupation: Consumer Services Manager and Sausage Maker
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Buca di Beppo
Reviewed The Mountain House Restaurant: Saturday May 26, 2007

The Mountain House proved to be an adventure in dining from the beginning. Driving from the Bay Area on a warm sunny evening turned into a grey evening with heavy fog to the point of rain. The parking was helter-skelter with my three-inch high heels melting into the soggy earth — oh what a feeling! I tried running towards the smoke that blows from the front of the restaurant because of their huge fireplace in the bar. I was in search of warmth and needed to get out of the big drops of fog and strong winds on day that was sunny elsewhere. Once inside, we were greeted warmly, and were seated swiftly with lots of pleasant chatting. We were seated in the enclosed patio, which provides a wonderful feeling of being in the treetops and swirling fog. I was settling in for a nice evening of intimate conversation. Most of the surrounding tables were full of couples talking low and enjoying the tabletop candlelight. All of a sudden, from the next table, which held 10 people, came the swooping, screaming cries (singing?) of, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!” Louder than I’ve ever even heard at Chuck E. Cheese, there was whistling and cheers and clapping. It was so unexpected that the rest of us in the dining room looked at one another, stunned, even the waitstaff seemed a little stunned and embarrassed by the prolonged enthusiasm.

The menu seems to want to be everything to everybody — it had Italian, Cajun, American, even egg rolls and wontons. I played it safe and ordered the Cajun Popcorn Shrimp appetizer and blue cheese salad with seasonal greens. Well, the Cajun shrimp turned out to be small shrimp deep-fried until they were the color of pecans with an orange marmalade for dipping. I said, “This isn’t Cajun — don’t you have some spicy sauce for me to dip the shrimp in?” No problem. The server brought back the same orange marmalade that had been mixed with horseradish sauce and she said, “This should be spicy enough.” Oh yeah, and the seasonal greens in my salad turned out to be iceberg lettuce leaves. But the bread was good and warm, and the cocktails from the full bar were well made.

At this point, I walked around and noticed that the bar area — the darkened room with a great big bar and fireplace — was crowded and full of people at tables. Maybe that was the intimate setting they promised. I took another look at the menu descriptions and I felt they were being a little bit too grandiose in their wordings, because they never presented what the words promised. However, they had wonderful sounding specials like elk chops, (they have chops?) and buffalo steaks, all of which I’m hoping they prepared better than their standard menu items. My entree was shrimp scampi with pasta, which I thought was better than my appetizer and salad.

All in all, if I were ever in the neighborhood again I would stop in for drinks at the bar. It was a bit too far from the Bay Area just for the food, though. If I ever went back I’d be sure to take them a recipe for Cajun popcorn shrimp, too.

The Mountain House: Reviews 23 July,2015Check, Please! Bay Area

  • Bob Seaby

    Check Please – The Mountain House

    After watching the episode of KQED’s Check Please and reading the comments on the Check Please web site, in which the Mountain House Restaurant was reviewed (praised by one and roasted by two), I decided to share some thoughts. It seems there are obvious flaws in the way KQED presents this program. At times it comes across like a Fox network reality survivor program. An enjoyable restaurant experience should not be defined by the drive or distance to reach it, the weather or the parking lot configuration. The experience is all about the food and service! While the gentleman, Lou, recommended and loves the Mountain House, the two women, Marcia and Helen, did not share his opinion.

    Lou had a pleasant drive from Belmont to the Mountain House whereas the women complained of their trek from Oakland and San Francisco respectively. Maybe all participants should be from the same geographic locale or KQED needs to eliminate travel as a factor in the restaurant reviews. Both women began their reviews with complaints about the “seemingly haphazard” and “helter-skelter” parking and continued by expressing their annoyance as a result of walking in mud or soggy earth, and in Helen’s case trying to avoid the “big drops of fog and strong wind”. Were these two ladies made aware of the fact that the Mountain House is at an elevation of approximately 2000 feet, surrounded by towering redwood trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains and occasionally kissed by fog? They were most definitely not in the urban environs of Berkley and San Francisco.

    Once inside the restaurant the complaining continued. Marcia, from Oakland, enjoyed her salad, buffalo steak and her companions’ fish dishes; but described the soup as “bland”, the vegetables “too al dente” and the garlic mashed potatoes lacking in garlic. Marcia is a contradiction in that she admits to ordering “simple dishes”; but then states she would have felt differently had the “food had more panache”. It would seem that if you want more panache then don’t order simple food – order the special items with dash and flair.

    Helen, from San Francisco, was warmed both literally and figuratively by the fireplace and pleasant ambience of the Mountain House; but her mood changed upon hearing ten people loudly sing “Happy Birthday” at a nearby table. She stated that the singing was “louder than I’ve heard at Chuck E. Cheese.” I find this ironic, that a woman criticizing the food at the Mountain House admits to even being in a Chuck E. Cheese !!!

    As for Helen’s dinner: the Cajun popcorn shrimp were not Cajun enough, the seasonal greens salad were not seasonal enough nor was her table “intimate” as promised. She did state that their cocktails were well made. The menu’s wording of some item descriptions was, in her opinion, “too grandiose”. Having seen buffalo steaks and elk chops she ordered shrimp scampi with pasta. Apparently her disappointment over the Cajun popcorn shrimp could not be overcome. As a parting shot Helen admits she would, if ever in the neighborhood again, stop in the Mountain House for drinks; but would “take them a recipe for Cajun popcorn shrimp”.

    When trying to figure out the disappointment and at times hostility directed at the Mountain House by urbanites Helen and Marcia, one only has to examine the restaurants these two ladies recommended. Marcia offered a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco called Da Lian which she loves as it reminds her of her time spent in China. Helen was predisposed to enjoy Da Lian as she admits to eating “Chinese food about four times a week”. For her part Helen recommended an Italian restaurant called Buca di Beppa which has been described by another reviewer as the “Chuck-E-Cheese of Italian restaurants.” That says it all.

    Somehow the restaurant playing field needs to be leveled. It is no surprise that the women were not impressed with the Mountain House and that Lou was not pleased with the women’s choices. Clearly alleged urban sophisticates may feel out of place in the casual elegance and charm of the Mountain House with its eclectic and carefully worded menu. Finally, this mountain resident has never been in, nor ever will be in a Chuck E Cheese like Italian restaurant. Life is too short for bad food and bad wine. As for the Mountain House Cajun popcorn shrimp, they have always been a family favorite – Cajun or not. We feel fortunate to have a restaurant that offers wonderful food, excellent service and a relaxed dining experience so close to home.

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