After all the raves on this board, decided to brave the traffic and travel the 37 miles down the 101 to Saddle Peak Lodge. Pretty good.
Expected a roaring fireplace and a huge rustic room. The fireplace was the size of a normal home's fireplace and tucked away in one corner. Room not overly large (no Ahwahnee Inn). Tables were nicely spaced and fairly comfortable - try for one of the rustic armchairs if you can get it. The room is a more real life version of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel - faux log cabin and lots of dead animals, mostly heads with antlers, though a dead bird was perched above the mirror over my table. Very well behaved clientele - quiet, no loud laughter. Music a little too loud - mostly brass playing swing music. Incongruous but not unpleasant. Pleasant room, overall, however.
The amuse was a smoked white corn chowder - so good that I ordered the peeky toe crab and corn chowder as an appetizer. Lots and lots of cream and pretty good crab tidbits, and great Yukon Gold potato chunks, but yellow corn, not the white of the amuse. Pretty good.
Scallops were truly great - the star of the show. Smoky, with a crunchy crust and creamy scallopy interior. World class.
Elk was equally sensational ($42). Huge portion, sliced and surrounded by four stalks of salsify wrapped in smoky bacon, perfectly done. The Kobe Beef (special prix fixe menu only -$99 with 3 tasting pours of good wines, which all come at the same time) was pretty good. Did not compare to the Elk. Loup de Mer very salty but well roasted.
Exquisite baked apple in filo with some caramel and ice cream. Other desserts OK.
Despite the place being only 2/3 full, service was a little disappointing. Again, OK, but not great. Very pleasant waiter who seemed eager to please but the waits got longer and longer. Nothing was quite hot, but then again, not so cool that we could bring ourselves to send it back. Mentioned that the Elk would be even better if it were warmer than luke, but when warned that it might come back overdone, decided to go with it. No major complaint, but it would probably have been better if it hadn't waited so long after cooking to be served. Same with the other mains.
The wines are very impressive. Although the list is very impressive, glasses are the way to go IMHO. Reasonably priced ($8 - 14) they are very intelligently chosen and great finds. The whites are poured in ~4 oz servings, but the reds are insanely large pours (same price as the whites) - approaching 7 oz. It seems they are encouraging the reds.
All in all, pretty good. Can't say great. And can't justify a long drive. If you're in the area this is well worth the price (~$120 per person), but it does not seem to me to be a destination place, despite the raves. Another victim of too high expectations, perhaps.
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