Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rafter's, Mammoth

I was in Mammoth Mountains over the weekend for some snowboarding action and after a day on the slopes, we decided that dinner out would be more convenient vs. cooking at the condo. While we were apres skiing at wine bar Sidedoor, our bartender gave us some dining recommendations. A new restaurant had recently opened. Well, it wasn't exactly new. In fact, Rafters was a Mammoth staple a couple of decades ago before it shut down. They reopened a month ago in the same location with Kerry Mechler running the kitchen. Chef Mechler was recently at Petra's, my favorite restaurant in Mammoth and his new menu is focused on American and Italian cuisine.

The restaurant is rather large with two dining areas. The main dining room has a bar and lounge area where a jazz band performs on certain nights. The other room looks more like a winter cabin with vintage posters and antique snowshoes mounted on the wall. In the corner of the room is a fireplace that gives the room a very cozy feel.

Bread with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic. Beautiful presentation. I can already tell that this is not your ordinary mountain restaurant.

Wine and a martini.
We also ordered two appetizers to share between the three of us.

Warm polenta cake, wild mushroom broth, Maytag blue cheese and white truffle oil.
We asked for the blue cheese on the side. The polenta cake was soft and slowly disintegrated in the earthy mushroom broth. The truffle oil was a nice touch as it added richness and flavor to the dish. The broth was absolutely delicious and I made sure to sop it up with bread.

Grilled eggplant tomato bruschetta, toasted pine nuts, red onion, Pecorino Romano cheese.
I liked that this wasn't just a typical tomato bruschetta. The eggplants were served in chunks topped with sharp Pecorino Romano cheese and the crostini was drizzled with some basil oil.

Pasta special of Orecchiette with bolognese and topped with goat cheese.
Sounds simple but this was probably my favorite entree because the flavors were there. Like any good pasta sauce, the bolognese was rich and satisfying. The goat cheese topping added another layer of richness but perhaps wasn't necessary. I liked the choice of pasta as the sauce would fill the crevices of the Orecchiette which led to the perfect bite.

Seared sea scallops, green lentil tomato ragu, sweet potato chips, micro greens.
The scallops were cooked medium rare and tender in the inside. The lentils were firm and well seasoned. I'm glad I ordered this dish as it was a simple, fresh and relatively light.

Egg fettuccine, smoked duck breast, oyster mushrooms, rosemary cream.
Personally, I don't like rosemary so I didn't care for this sauce. Also, I think the pasta dish would have been better if the duck was grilled or confit instead of smoked. The smoked duck seemed more like ham so the dish didn't seem as special as it sounded.

For dessert, butterscotch Pot de creme, ginger snap cookies, chocolate candy cane.
The pot de creme tasted like a thicker panna cotta. It was delicious and not too sweet or rich.

I really enjoyed the food at Rafters. The plating was beautiful and it was good to see that they put that extra touch which sometimes can be lacking in small mountain town restaurants. The service was great as well: our waiter was attentive, honest and entertaining. I can see Rafters as the town's choice for a special occasion dinner because the food is good, hearty yet delicate and interesting. It's good to be able to get something that isn't just steak and potatoes in the mountains.

Hits: polenta cake, pasta bolognese, scallops
Misses: smoked duck
Rating: ***

202 Old Mammoth Rd.,
Mammoth lakes, CA 93546
(760) 934-9431

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