Signature restaurants at hotels tend to be very hit or miss but I had high hopes entering Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe’s Manzanita Restaurant. I had already sampled the hotel’s room service (run by Manzanita) and other eateries on property- all of which churned out excellent food.

Entering Manzanita feels much like entering the Ritz Lake Tahoe- a world unto itself, with an actual “top shelf” bar in the front, glass encased wine cellar, large windows overlooking never ending snow or green hills depending on what season you’re in and central fireplace. There’s an obvious and immediate coziness to the place, with a upturned energy level from the open kitchen where guests can watch the stars behind the dishes.

My uber-friendly server highly recommended the Beet & Buratta Salad and despite my lukewarm relationship with beets, I accepted her suggestion. A vibrantly colorful array of red and golden beets arrived on a flat white plate, mixed together with slices of crisp apple, soft buratta, finely diced celery and a creamy honey herb vinaigrette. At once tangy, sweet, with just the right touch of saltiness, this beet salad has forever changed my perception of these roots. I found myself still thinking of the dish the next few days, determined to recreate it at home.

A few bites of tender pork belly came paired with house-made ricotta ravioli, parsnip purée, Chanterelle mushroom and a bright apple slaw that contrasted the richer stars of the dish perfectly.

The 12-hour Bordeaux braised Short Ribs were among the best I’ve had in America- so incredibly tender that you could eat it with just a spoon. The reduced Bordeaux sauce was buttery from absorbing the ribs’ flavors while Cipollini onions lent a sharp accent to a hearty dish.

The star of the evening though were the Scallops, full, juicy and tender; I couldn’t recall the last time I had seen such perfectly seared scallops. The accompany tendrils of Romanesque added a nice crunchy texture against the velvety scallops. I wished I had saved room for another order.

To close an already spectacular meal, I chose the Apple and Almond Tarte Tatin- a pastry I often use to judge whether a place is worth coming back to or not. A standing ovation is due to Manzanita’s pastry chef who brilliantly marries the exquisite warm tatin with a perfectly sweetened Rum Raisin gelato and a tart apple cider. The blend of the warm apples and almonds against the sweet melting gelato and a swig of bright cider created one of the most memorable foodgasms I’ve ever had in a pretty long career.

I’ve had the blessing to travel the world discovering great food and this was my first encounter with those three elements together. Sheer brilliance.

Really the entire team at Manzanita deserves applause from the very attentive and knowledgeable server to the Chef de Cuisine, all the line chefs who work hard in tandem and of course, the aforementioned pastry chef. Manzanita is worth a long drive in and of itself, not to mention it’s housed in one of America’s most gorgeous hotels.

Visit Manzanita
Read My Review of the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe