Damn, the view. Pressed against the Shore Lodge's massive windows overlooking Payette Lake at twilight--boats rocking rhythmically against the dock and mountains rising up to grab the last tendrils of sunlight--those words are likely to fall from your mouth. But The Narrows no longer serves solely views.
Under the helm of new executive chef Steven Topple, who recently took the reins from Matt Renshaw, McCall's Shore Lodge has upped its game--literally and figuratively. Though the menu had already transitioned toward using more seasonal and local ingredients, Topple, who previously worked for the Sonnenalp Resort in Vail, Colo., is focusing on simplicity. A perfect example is the buffalo carpaccio ($11)--thin slices of deep red buffalo so tender it had to be scraped from the plate, topped with curled shavings of parmesan and cracked pepper. When slid onto a sliver of crostini and accented with a couple of leaves of lemony arugula, each flavor was magnified, not overshadowed.
In fact, the starters were the most interesting part of Topple's ever-changing menu. A bowl of Mediterranean fish soup ($7) flew out of the kitchen with a mound of meaty smoked prawns, chopped chorizo, salmon, corn and rice in an otherwise empty bowl. As one server placed the dish on the table, another poured a stream of hot tomato broth over it. Though the soup was a bit bland, the presentation and service were notable without being too showy.
The beet tarte tatin ($13) was also pleasant--with a buttery circle of puff pastry topped with pesto, a few clumps of goat cheese, microgreens and a drizzle of port reduction--but the real star of the app menu was the duo of scallops ($16), served on a pile of giant white beans in a creamy, bacon-flecked sauce, topped with crisp fried shallots and a large sprig of parsley. Scallops and giant beans? What a fantastically simple, yet unexpected pairing.
Though the entree list was peppered with some familiar, old-school country clubby standbys--potato-crusted Idaho trout ($29), filet mignon ($38), the option to "accessorize" your meal with a lobster tail ($21 half, $35 whole) or seared fois gras ($12)--there are also some interesting game options. We chose the duo of quail stuffed with chorizo wild rice ($29), balanced on a couple fried green onion pancakes and surrounded by a bacon-y stew of pearl onions. The tiny quails had the picturesque sheen of miniature Norman Rockwell turkeys, but weren't the least bit overcooked. And while the dish didn't benefit from the so-so chorizo, the onions and chewy wild rice were a great pairing. As was a glass of the Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red ($10).
As the windows darkened with the setting sun, we were surprised to see that the dining room had mostly cleared out by 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night. The Narrows might be gaining a following under its new chef, but the view still adds an undeniable magic.