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Restaurants & Bars 3

Le Bistro at Incline + 4 Leser Tahoe Spots

Fine | Jul 30, 200108:29 PM

Spent five nights at North Shore of Lake Tahoe. Aside from a perfect meal at Le Bistro* in Incline Village, ate between so-so and lousy, the worst and most expensive being Gar Woods, which served an oxidized chicken quesadilla (oxymoron) which should have been discarded well before and a watery, flavorless "ribeye." Best item in this very disappointing meal was mixed fresh vegetables served with both of our main courses. Bread was an affront--both spongy AND stale. About $100 with two courses each (I had salad which was ok though dressing seemed sweetened and special of blackened halibut) and $15 corkage.

Steak house in Tahoe Vista--Old Range or some similar name--is not bad; decent porterhouse for $36, 10 more to share, which means both get red potatoes and adequate caesar. $9 for steamed vegetable (not adjusted for size of party!), which, on this--as on previous--visit consisted of rock-hard broccoli, which I requested be cooked 10 minutes longer but was still way too al dente when returned. $20 corkage!

Pianeta in Truckee made delicious appetizers--an eggplant tapenade bruschetta and a nice, lemony caesar-- and inconsistent mains--decent, happily cooked-through quail with rather strong bell pepper sauce, thankfully on side, and a rather too cheesy risotto plus too busy, overly rich vegetarian pasta dish. Soft rolls were at least interestingly flavored with rosemary. Requested olive oil was exceptional--B.Cohn extra virgin, accompanied by a nice balsamic. Friendly and accommodating staff. $67 with one beer, one glass each very good Italian Barbera and boring Sangiovese, before tip.

Spindleshanks, Tahoe Vista--site of former Col. Claire's--provided gorgeous view from enlcosed patio, inconsistent food. Caesar topped with loads of unrecognizable cheese, hard to scrape off, and no detectable anchovies, though waiter kindly brought some; deep-fried rock shrimp and calamare seemed what Michael Bauer likes to call "generic" to me; dining partner liked. Coating not greasy but hard as a rock (shrimp?!).Very good Jambalaya--nice and hot. Also, very good scallops with somewhat less-appealing, Asian-accented sauces on portobello and asparagus, but I guess tourist places feel compelled to goop everything up. Can't put my hand on bill right now, but was probably close to 100 with tip. They were nice enough to charge us half the 15 corkage for our half bottle!

*After several years, Le Bistro is still charging an unbelievable $34 for its 5-course prix fixe. Started with 3 different complimentary amuse-bouches; then a super, carrot-colored cold potato + soup topped with crisp slivers of leek greens. For 3.50 extra, I had fresh white apsaragus with blood orange vinaigrette; spouse had great house salad then chicken "gateau," a rich mound of pate, surrounded by wonderful filled endive leaves, while my next course was an unbelievable house-smoked and lightly cooked piece of salmon rolled into a dome atop perfectly cooked yellow potato slices and surrounded by some other delicacy that I can't recall this second, I think heirloom cherry tomatoes, perhaps some green beans (virtually all produce here is organic)--all also surrounded by two delicious sauces, an intense and perfectly balanced vinaigrette and an avocado puree. That dish alone--if one could find its equal--would cost 12.50 in an SF restaurant! For NZ lamb, my 3-chop rack topped with thinned, not overwhelming pesto, was very good, as were the salsify, the melt-in-the mouth layered, gratinee potatoes,and the marvelous pommes souffles for the table, which, miraculously, accompany every main course. Companion's veal was tender, beautifully cooked and sauced, topped with tasty morels and garnished with spirals of whipped white potatoes topped with whipped sweet potatoes. We managed to devour three platesful of Acme levain (helps cut the richness--LOL). There followed the house "grand dessert," five housemade delectables that included a textbook creme brulee, a tasty chocolate mousse cake, and various custard, whipped cream, and cheese-filled cookies and pastries, some with fruits. The plate was garnished with more fresh, seasonal fruit.

Corkage is only $15; wine list very good. Despite Nevada location, this is a nonsmoking restaurant. Still gets my highest recommendation.

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