From the minute I walked in the door, I knew this place had panache. I glanced to my right as I was walking to my table and saw a cozy lounge with a glowing yellow onyx-top bar. In the dining room, rich wood beams, velvet burgundy padded booths, linens with a subtle pattern, tables with padded chairs—seats 45 with a private room for 20—and I knew someone with impeccable taste and attention to detail put this restaurant together. Even the flatware was exceptional. Every booth has a separate lighting system, and the walls are adorned with notable art from Tahoe vistas.
I was presented with my napkin by one of the wait staff dressed to coordinate with the room’s décor. A selection of rolls was presented, and I was already impressed. The staff was well-schooled, and Maitre‘d Mitch Dettloff has the pedigree to make this room and experience stellar. He spent time at the Peppermill, but the accolades are from his Los Angeles days—Nick’s Fish Market and The Georgian Room.
The menu is well thought out. Dinners include soup or salad, starch and a side ($30 -$38) with the full range of prime steaks, free-range chicken, and some fish. Executive Chef Frank Gibson, a member of the ACF High Sierra Chiefs Association, with time in Maui and Jakes-at-the-Lake, is in the back and manages the digital broiler that cooks steaks at 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dettloff does table-side Caesar salad, steak Diane and bananas Foster. Only a few places in town attempt this once-great spectacle of cuisine, part of a lost art in restaurateuring, so I decided to put him to the test, by ordering steak Diane ($38). But first, the lobster bisque ($12): rich and creamy, with a nice undertone of nutty sherry and plenty of Maine lobster meat—decadent to be sure.
The Diane was three medallions of thin filet seared in a pan at table-side with scallions, garlic and mushrooms, then flambéed with brandy and finished with a little heavy cream, Dijon mustard, chopped parsley, and a port demi-glaze a la Escoffier (the greatest French Chef). The meat melted in my mouth with savory flavors of semi-sweet, rich gravy-like, almost chocolaty tones, and the texture of the mushrooms and parsley carried this flavor exuberance all they way through my mouth—a masterful rendition.
How could I do dessert? I bucked up, and again, Dettloff to the table with bananas Foster for two ($18), with what Dettloff said was the original Brennan’s of New Orleans recipe. Brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, banana liqueur and white run to flame everything and help canalize the syrup on the bananas, served over vanilla ice cream. It’s the best way to get potassium, not to mention a sugar high.
There’s a full bar and nice wine list and a by-the-glass selection that works ($7-$24). With the bisque, I had the 2010 Ferrari-Carano Tré Terre Chardonnay from Russian River Valley ($10) a medium-bodied wine with aromas and flavors of citrus, pears, green apple, spice and vanilla. In the mouth, it has a nice acidity, creamy butter and light oak that linger to the finish. With the steak, I went with a Wild Horse Pinot Noir ($10) from the California Central Coast—the aromas of raspberry and ripe strawberry with a great mouth-feel and a taste of a dusty spice, rich and juicy.
A great eater once said one of the nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. Once you experience the Steak House at Tamarack Junction, I’m sure you’ll want to give them more attention.