June 18, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Tradition Beats Tedium at Saddle Peak Lodge

The interior of the Saddle Peak Lodge features elegant rustic decorFor Angelenos looking for something different in a local dining experience, perhaps seeking out something old, not new, is the answer. The 100-plus-year-old Saddle Peak Lodge, nestled in the hills of Malibu, has a long history as a roadhouse, Pony Express stop, hunting lodge, European auberge and even bordello, and in recent history it has served as a rustic restaurant escape for those who crave a culinary adventure out of the ordinary.

Despite the antique decor and memorabilia that sets the atmosphere as an old-world place far away from the city, the service and attitude is decidedly contemporary and youthful. In fact, from the chef to the general manager, the establishment is run by young faces with fresh ideas.
Executive Chef Adam Horton, named one of the nation’s Five Rising ChThe Divers Scallop with English peas, black garlic, and sea urchin velouteefs by Gayot, is a 2004 graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu program of California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. As a culinary student he apprenticed at the Saddle Peak Lodge before going abroad to cook at London’s prestigious Gordon Ramsey Restaurant among others. After returning stateside and a brief stint at Melisse in Santa Monica, he came home to the Saddle Peak where he has applied his unique training and experience to carry on the traditions, spirit and excellence that are the reputation of this historical destination restaurant.

To fully appreciate the range and creativity of the restaurant’s offerings, a first-timer may wish to order the Chef’s Tasting Menu, a expertly hosted culinary journey into the territory of wild game, including wood-grilled Californian squab, servedExecutive Chef Adam Horton with a warm truffled wild mushroom salad, pea tendrils and sunchoke puree, and New Zealand elk tenderloin, with celery root, sweet potato, crispy bacon, arugula, currants and sauce chasseur.
The Chef’s menu also provides an option for a flight of premium wines that are perfectly paired with the meal, such as the ZD, Carneros, Pinot Noir, 2007, which despite its dark ruby color presented as light and understated when sampled with the crispy Berkshire pork belly, prepared with sherry agri-doux, frisee and tomato pepadew confiture, and then transformed into a richer and robust blend of red plum and hints of toast and rhubarb pie when tasted with the seared La Belle Farms foie gras, served with organic apples, chips, gastrique, fondant, brioche and sherry maple sauce.

A stand-out plate of the meal is the seared diver scallops with English peas, black garlic, and sea urchin veloute. Absolutely among the best and freshest scallops ever tasted.

As a finish, the menu offers a deconstructed black forest cake with brandied cherries, kirsh gel and homemade vanilla ice cream. In addition to the flourless cake, which is fabulously decadent, one might also opt for the legendary bread pudding, which is a sweetly satisfying complement to the final wine paring, Bogle Petite Sirah Port 2006.

The cuisine is undoubtedly inventive, but the distinctive dining experience does not end there. For a complete Saddle Peak Lodge experience, one must explore the property, by day and evening, to appreciate the beauty of its setting from the patio or terrace, to savor views of the surrounding peaks and an overlook of the creek that flows through Las Virgenes Canyon to the Pacific Ocean. Inside, there are downstairs and upstairs dining rooms boasting stone fireplaces, a library with collection of rare books, displays of vintage guns and fishing rods, and of course, one can not miss the mounted animal heads, including an array of impressive bucks, and even a water buffalo.

Though there are a few vegetarian entrees offered, this is definitely not the first-choice venue for a non-carnivore; but for adventurous diners who are game for exotic fish, foul and beast, Saddle Peak Lodge will surely please their palette.

Chef’s Tasting Menu, four or eight courses, $85 to $135; with wine paring, $150 to $210. Entrees $29 to $49. 419 Cold Canyon Road, Calabasas, 818-222-3888,
http://www.saddlepeaklodge.com.

K. Pearson Brown is a travel and lifestyle writer, columnist and mommy blogger (http://www.outwithmommy.com) living in Los Angeles.

in Dining
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