Posted by Erin Dillon
At 8:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night, my dining companions and I approach The Mouzon House. This brick Victorian home, situated in an asphalt field between the police station and the Hampton Inn, seems anachronistic, and indeed, upon entering the enchanting Mouzon House, we have waltzed into a distant era.
Inside, the atmosphere is elegant but not ostentatious. An abundance of candles illuminates the restaurant's rich colors, wooden flooring, and dramatic portraits that adorn every wall. Ornate d??cor combined with a feeling of southern ease to create a lavish-yet-charming ambiance fit for either a celebratory meal or a more casual night out with friends. Tonight, an excursion with three housemates during Saratoga's Restaurant Week, is a relaxed affair.
We feel like guests at a grand, southern dinner party. The tables, set with goblet-like glasses and flickering candles, are comfortably clustered within several adjacent, open rooms. Despite the cozy ambiance, the fireplace proves artificial and my companions and I all admit to feeling uncomfortably chilly. Perhaps we should have ordered some of Mouzon's old-timey cocktails to warm up; the hot toddy seems especially alluring on this March evening.
Music plays audibly, but certainly does not overpower any conversation. We easily hear our waiter explain tonight's menu offerings. The Mouzon House sources local, organic ingredients whenever possible, and a majority of its menu changes not only with the season but with the week.
Our knowledgeable waiter describes the soup, crostini, charcuterie, fish and market vegetables du jour. The veggies sound delicious: you can choose between pan-roasted brussels sprouts, saut??ed kale, roasted cauliflower or glazed carrots; you may also order a large platter of all four to share. Surprisingly, I do not order any of these tempting seasonal vegetables. As a vegan, I had not anticipated so many options; the menu has me at its vegetarian tapas board-hummus, olives, pickles, whipped lentil p??t?? and pita bread-and its seasonal soup, tonight some sort of vegetable concoction that I trust is tasty.
For a vegan, reading beyond the appetizer and salad headings often leads to disappointment --even jealousy--but as I continue perusing Mouzon's menu, I am pleasantly shocked to see that both the pasta and entr??e sections contain that beautiful "V" after several dish descriptions. Here, the "V" does not merely indicate vegetarian dishes but rather dishes that "can be vegan," according to the menu. I salivate at the prospect of the mushroom ragu, the Creole jambalaya and the grilled eggplant with chickpeas. I will not go home hungry tonight.
I order the market salad to start (hold the cheese). The salad is nothing groundbreaking-a predictable composition of greens, red beets, apple, pecans and balsamic vinaigrette-but is well made and flavorful nonetheless. For my entr??e, I select the beet risotto. Even in this simpler dish, executive chef Dave Pedinotti's skill shines. The risotto (which has been prepared vegan, remember) is perfectly creamy without a loss of the rice's textural integrity. Visually, the plate is lovely: red beets dye the risotto, which has been spooned atop thin medallions of golden beets. Vivid kale, lightly saut??ed and still pleasantly crunchy, covers the risotto. The noticeably fresh vegetables, in addition to parsley, garlic and olive oil, harmonize to create a delicious and uncomplicated plate. Also, aside from the too-generous drizzle of olive oil, the dish is relatively healthy.
I do not expect a vegan dessert option. Two of my companions order apple cake with cinnamon ice cream. The other orders bread pudding. I feel satisfied from my well-portioned salad and risotto, and would be fine taking a knee for the dessert course. Waiter to the rescue: he darts into the kitchen then reports back with an offer of a coconut-milk and coffee granita. Pinch me-dessert that does not contain the words "fruit" and "cup"? Dessert arrives, and although the granita is refreshing and tasty, I am slightly jealous of my friends' warm, rich desserts; the restaurant has only become colder as the night winds down.
Although we are the last customers at The Mouzon House, we are not hurried to finish up. The waiter brings our check once we request it. I pay more than I would at Sushi Thai or Esperanto's-appetizers here cost between $8 and $16, and entrees between $13 and $30-but a delectable dinner, remarkable setting, exceptional service, and time spent enjoying it all with friends is well worth the bill.
(Note: during Saratoga Restaurant Week most restaurants offer a fixed plate deal for $20.14. Enjoy while you can.)