Posted by Tegan O'Neill
Creak went the floorboards as we snaked our way to our table at the Mouzon House on a recent Thursday evening. Musicians in the room over were just beginning to make noise. While they meddled with their instruments, we spoke in whispers. It was too quiet. Hearing about the specials felt a little like playing pretend with no one else in the ghostly dining room yet. The waitress, (there was only one) deftly played her assigned role in this seemingly make-believe meal. Our food arrived in portions that, at first glance,seemed better suited for dolls in a doll house. Alas, sometimes our eyes are hungrier than our bellies. Thankfully, the chef had sense enough to know this. Each of the dishes proved to be richer than anticipated. Enough was enough by the last biteful, even of the most delightful foods. Reinforcing that too much of a good thing can be bad.
The beef short ribs over pumpkin risotto were especially delightful. The meat, slightly aromatic, and delightfully fatty. The pumpkin risotto, sweet like a dessert and homey like a crackling fire. A few leaves of kale maintained their beautiful green vibrancy and
strength of texture, but were rich in a way that greens rarely are. Fat and flavor have seeped into the kale's veins. Luxuriously rich kale no longer is an oxymoron.
I now know that when white beans and broccoli rabe are sauteed with roasted garlic, finished with white wine and romano cheese, a strikingly rich and complex dish is born. Butter, I am sure, helps. For such a humble combination of ingredients, the dish is an unexpected pleasure.
It is curiously deep. Elegance arises when nourishing ingredients are cloaked in robes of herbs and fat. Red hot pepper also lends a fantastic punch, making the story of bean meets green a success.
Although quite similar in flavor profile, the orecchiette with broccoli rabe does not have the same satisfying effect. Here, orecchiette pasta takes the place of beans. The dish does not have the same heartiness--perfect for a fall meal--that the other one so generously provides. By comparison, the tiny ears of pasta seem flimsy and nutritionally inferior.
The seasonal soup--butternut squash--also falls short. There are so many iterations of this soup during autumnal months that lackluster versions are easy to criticize. This one is thin and overly salty and does not muster the cozy, warm and fuzzy feelings that
are to be expected. Cinnamon, coriander, allspice, and cardamom are confusingly fused together. This combination tastes like India, which is odd because the Mouzon House could not be farther from the subcontinent.
Although dessert was not included in the Thursday night $20 prix fixe menu that we had chosen from, we could not let the meal stop just yet. The bananas walk a dangerous line between sweet and cloyingly so, but it manages to stay in the clear. The way it drips and drools down the spoon justifies spending a little more. It does not matter that the cinnamon ice cream melts in the bat of the eye, it oozes right on into the syrupy coalescence. Surely, other options like the apple bread pudding and an ice cream sandwich with molasses cookies are just as good.
By the end of the meal, music and people had filled the room. The Mouzon House felt a little less like the skeleton of a restaurant. There is no doubt that this Saratoga standby sees robust crowds in the summertime months. In the meantime, it holds its breath.
Nevertheless, eating out at the Mouzon House is worthwhile. The food reflects the season, it is rich, complex, and elegant, and the service is more than competent: the Mouzon House stands for why we like going out to eat.