By Rich Rubin
As your traveling gourmet, I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying both what’s on my plate and the backdrop for it. Somehow, for me, a good meal is enhanced when there’s a beautiful panorama behind it, which means I’m going to take you on a culinary and scenic excursion. We’re going to see mountains, oceans, rivers, cities, and even a fjord thrown in for good measure. We’re going to eat very well, because the one thing that these restaurants have in common, beside the amazing views, is great food. I mean, really: I wouldn’t take you somewhere with bad food, no matter what you saw through the windows. I do have my standards! So let’s see just what it’s like when fabulous meals are accompanied by perfect views.
We’ll start in Northern California, in the tiny seaside town of Jenner, at my absolute favorite scenic restaurant: River’s End (11048 Highway 1, Jenner, CA. Tel: 707-865-2484. www.ilovesunsets.com). Perched on a cliff above the spot where the Russian River flows into the Pacific, it boasts a view that is literally jaw-dropping. A few rocks sit stoically among the waves, while a long spit of sand separates the river from the ocean. On the balcony (prime views though no dining out there), a telescope focused on a distant outcropping might reveal a family of harbor seals basking in the California sun.
Elements (5700 E. McDonald Dr., Paradise Valley, AZ. Tel: 855-245-2051. www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com/dining/elements) at Sanctuary on Camelback resort sits right on this famous local mountain, with a view out over the town of Paradise Valley and a 180-degree sweep of mountains through the wall of windows (note: if you want absolutely nothing between you and the view, try to grab a seat on the patio). Like River’s End, this is a great one for sunsets, with the mountains silhouetted against a blazing, rainbow-colored Arizona sky. The seasonally changing menu holds some unexpected touches, like the escargot pot pie I daringly order as a starter. It’s amazing, with a rich and dusky flavor that’s a creative spin on the old standard. The carrot/millet potstickers are another great take on the traditional, with a texture that’s somehow both hearty and delicate, with hints of sesame and yuzu. Hoisin-braised short ribs are a house specialty, as is the wonderfully flavorful swordfish, or their classic miso-glazed salmon. Don’t miss the Brussels sprouts livened with hints of bacon (it’s unlikely your server will let you get away without ordering them!). For dessert, I love their take on s’mores, with chocolate mousse, caramel gelato, marshmallow crème, and crumbled Graham crackers strewn across the plate. Perfect service, great food, classic Arizona vistas: any more questions?
After all this nature, let’s head to the heart of the city and Eiffel Tower (Paris Resort, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S. Tel: 702-948-6937. www.eiffeltowerrestaurant.com). Leaving the elevator, you enter along a sweep of carpet, with windows revealing the glistening Las Vegas Strip. Like this crazy city itself, the view never stays the same: neon lights blink and flash, video images flicker across gigantic screens, words scroll, and across the way, the fountains at the Bellagio send their waters skyward in very Las Vegas splendor. Watch the cascading springs as you enjoy a velvety squash soup with a hint of chewiness from little pieces of duck confit made crispy with toasted bits of bread, or a lobster salad that explodes with the zest of Jerusalem artichokes and chanterelles. Cod in a light curry sauce melts in your mouth, livened by thin strips of zucchini and a dense quinoa bed, while steaks come with a choice of sauces from lemon parsley butter to Bordelaise. Be sure to leave room for dessert, whether it’s their signature soufflés, an Alsace-style apple strudel or many-layered raspberry Napoleon. Hint: reservations at 4:30 (the beginning of dinner service) have a guarantee of a window seat, which is otherwise first come, first served. While the cuisine here is itself worth a trip, wouldn’t you like a front-row seat for the action?
Interested in more amazing restaurants with views? Check out our list over at Passport magazine online…