By Karin Edmondson
Some of the most memorable experiences occur by surprise when and where one least expects. For instance: On vacation out west a few years ago, my sister and I stopped at a gas station in Muddy Gap, Wyoming a desolate town that consisted of the gas station and perhaps two other buildings centered mournfully around a crossroads.Inside the gas station a map full of colored tacks hung on the wall.People who’d driven through Muddy Gap marked their home towns and to our delight, there was a rather respectable cluster of black tacks around New York City. Grinning at our fellow New Yorker’s penchant for elegant black in all things, we stuck two more tacks to the map and suddenly felt not so alien not so far from home.
Mountain View Brasserie on Route 32 between the hamlets of Freehold and Greenville is such a splendid surprise. Tucked away from the world, housed in a low slung, not very ornate or descriptive one-story modern construction building, the restaurant’s interior evokes another world entirely: It’s a sort of Faberge interior plush, cozy and warm. Porcelain blue and effervescent yellow predominate and lace real, European white lace cascades from serving tables. Portions of the wood floors are covered with wool rugs of a pale winter blue and elegant rose hue. Boxwood and dwarf Alberta spruce glow from white lights of the holiday season. A narrow columnar Christmas tree in one of the two main dining rooms radiates silver, white and generous light and warmth.
Simple the dishes are not the menu is fashioned after French tradition yet elegant they most certainly are. There are luxe entree options, like one of the specials the night we dined: salmon encrusted with crab and served with lobster sauce, a description that conjured up velvet, silk and enormous portions of heavy cream. Chef Max Suhner, an Austrian by way of the Manhattan restaurant world, also serves luxurious dishes with a light touch, such as the scallops served with spinach and bacon sherry vinaigrette. The scallops were moist and succulent atop their bed of fresh spinach (a nice, refreshing touch even more so in the warmer months when arugula takes the place of the spinach) and accompanied by generous tiers of bacon all drizzled with sherry vinaigrette. Potatoes au gratin served on a separate porcelain plate rounded out the entree.
For an appetizer, the house smoked salmon with dill cucumber salad is a terrific choice. The salmon is robustly smoked (fleetingly reminiscent of European smoked wurst) and generously served in four large pieces all nestling the crisp cucumber (terragon replaced the dill) salad. Other appetizers include: jumbo shrimp cocktail, fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil oil, stuffed portabella mushrooms with spinach, sundried tomatoes and cheese, Maryland crab cakes in lobster sauce, warm hazelnut crusted goat cheese with market greens in a classic Caesar salad. Mainstay soups are French onion gratinee and a lobster bisque plus a soup de jour which was wonderfully smooth, early and rich mushroom soup the night we dined.
The filet mignon with green peppercorn sauce arrived perfectly tall, plucky and sauced with a piquant pepper sauce that imparted a distinct bite, a distinct counter point to the succulent velvet filet. Other entrees include: baked Atlantic salmon filet with orange and olive butter, baked filet of lemon sole with citrus beurre blanc sauce, grilled center cut loin of pork served with roasted apples with calvados sauce and braised red cabbage, roasted herb crusted rack of lamb, sauteed chicken breast saltimbocca with sage and prosciutto di parma. A sole vegetarian entree, a vegetable risotto with parmiagiano-reggiano cheese is able to be meated up with either roasted shrimp or grilled chicken breast.
Dessert a white chocolate bread pudding with caramel sauce was selected by Mark even before we decided on our entrees. Dessert, a culinary cognoscente know, is the most vital course of any meal, generating feelings of coddled warmth and sated satisfaction. Since he was slightly disinclined to share much of his dessert that night, I had the opportunity to delight in the warm apple tart with vanilla ice cream, fresh whipped cream and caramel drizzle, a delight of warm cinnamon apple slices fanned upon light, crisp, butter dough slightly bathed in sweet vanilla rivulets of iced and whipped creams. Other desserts on the menu include: warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, New York cheesecake with strawberries and creme brulee.
The wine list is contained but varied, and compromises all of the correct pairings of grapes and countries: Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (Villa Maria Select), Shiraz from Australia (Rosemont Estate and Lindemann’s Reserve), champagne from France (Perrier Jouet, Pommery Champagne, Brut Vintage 1995, Chianti from Italy (Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva, Castello DiGabbiano Chianti Classico) and Chardonnay from California (Frei Brothers, Bonterra Organic) just to name a few selections.
Chef Max Suhner blends tradition with contemporary flourishes after having cooked in various international restaurants: Hotel Rossli in Switzerland; the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center; and in New York City, the New York Mercantile Exchange, United Nations Catering/ Restaurant Associates and Grand Tier Restaurant at the Metropolitan Opera House. His cooking has a polish that belays meticulous preparation and a very European panache. The Buel and Suhner families were the team that renovated and operated for eight years the Freehold Country Inn until it was sold in August 2006. The Mountain View Brasserie was opened on May 2, 2007, after months of planning and spectacular renovation. The Mountain View Brasserie is located at 10697 Route 32 in Greenville. Please call (518) 966-5522 for reservations. The Mountain View Brasserie is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday for lunch from noon until 3 p.m. and for dinner from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Sunday the restaurant is open for dinner from noon until 9 p.m. It is closed Tuesday. Reservations are highly suggested for Friday and Saturday evenings. For more information, visitwww.mountainviewbrasserie.com.