ST. REGIS FALLS — It's a bit of a trek, for some. But a recent visit to Deer Valley Trails here was worth the drive.
It's not on the main highway — you really have to know where you're going. Head south out of St. Regis Falls on Route 358. A small road sign for the restaurant directs you on to Blue Mountain Road. Just when you think you've come to the end of the earth, you come to Deer Valley Trails.
And by no means is it your average beer-drinking, dilapidated, back-woods deer camp. It's a beautiful, modern, rustic building filled with fine Adirondack woodwork and decorations. Large windows offer great views of the wilderness, complete with dozens of deer grazing just outside. Someone put a lot of money into this place.
There were actually more deer outside than there were diners inside. But it was a weekday, and it's close to the end of the snowmobile season. We understand the restaurant is filled on weekends with outdoors enthusiasts.
We bellied up to the handsome, authentic Adirondack bar. It's always nice to chum up to your bartender. They're usually good at making menu recommendations, and making friends often translates to a sturdy mixed drink, I have found over the years. And if you're into beer, they've got four draft choices and two dozen foreign and domestics by the bottle.
This being a slow night, our bartender was also our server. We moved to a nice high-top table with intimate lighting right next to a window with a wonderful wilderness view.
The menu has a nice variety of offerings, nothing too over the top. A just-right menu for where we were — something for everyone, prepared by their new chef, Angelo Landi. My guests, from Potsdam, were familiar with Angelo's cooking. For many years he had his own restaurant there, specializing in well-prepared seafood and Italian-influenced fare.
For appetizers, there are steamed clams, shrimp cocktail, mozzarella sticks, fried calamari, Angelo's bruschetta and more.
We began with some late-winter comfort food: chili, potato skins and clam chowder, each priced at $4.99. At the same time, we sliced into a warm, crusty baguette presented on its own cutting board.
The cup of chili was great, certainly homemade and hearty with appealing chunks of tomato, green peppers, onion and ground beef. Very tasty, with the perfect amount of heat.
Potato skins were also a treat, topped with lots of cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon and flanked with sides of traditional sour cream and not-so-traditional salsa. The salsa was an interesting addition, but not our first preference.
Angelo used to make a great clam chowder at his restaurant. Not the case here. This version was right out of a freezer bag, probably something from the previous kitchen regime he had to use up. It was bland at best with a fake creaminess, loaded with potatoes and not much else. We were hard-pressed to find anything that looked or tasted like a clam.
On the other hand, our salads were Angelo all the way. Crisp, fresh vegetables. Lettuce nicely chopped for ease of consumption. Quartered Roma tomatoes, ripe and flavorful. House Italian dressing was not visually appealing, a funny grayish color, but had a nice tangy flavor with the right amount of vinegar and spice.
Cajun Texas rib eye ($15.99), a 12-ounce cut, came out looking and smelling fabulous, covered with sautéed onions and peppers. It was not sufficiently seasoned for Cajun branding, nor was it buttery and melt-in-your mouth as you would expect from a rib eye. French fries were crispy, crunchy and tasty.
A full rack of barbecue spare ribs ($17.99) was a good prepackaged product. It had the right amount of baked-on barbecue sauce — no need for a bib and a roll of paper towels. The sauce had a nice smoky flavor and the meat was tender enough to be easily cut from the bones.
Both the steak and the ribs came with a nice vegetable medley of fresh broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms and yellow squash sautéed in butter.
One of Angelo's specialties at his previous restaurant was chicken Parmesan, and his version here ($13.99) was the same: delicious! The chicken breast was pounded thin, then breaded, seasoned and cooked perfectly. A healthy ladle of smooth, homemade, garlic-infused marinara and melted mozzarella completed the creation. A bed of perfect al dente penne was served underneath.
The portion was enormous, which was perfect because it made for great leftovers.
Baked shrimp marinara ($14.99) was just OK. Although "baked" had us picturing a casserole-type dish, what arrived was a sauté of penne, shrimp, mozzarella and a little marinara, a little short on shrimp and generally dry. I guess "creamy marinara" in the menu description has us expecting more of a vodka cream sauce.
We did take the remaining pasta home and asked for a generous splash of marinara to be added. That did the trick. It disappeared quickly for lunch the next day.
Other entrées include chicken Marsala, salmon Florentine, vegetable primavera and roast turkey dinner. Prime rib is served on weekends. Angelo also creates the "Deer Valley sauté" — chicken and shrimp with tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic — and "Dexter Lake sauté" — chicken, asparagus and sundried tomatoes in a pesto cream sauce.
Desserts were not offered, but we were sufficiently full, so probably wouldn't have ordered dessert anyway.
Service was friendly and personable.
Dinner for four came to $84.16 before drinks and tip.
As we drove back to civilization, we sensed that Angelo's creative talent may be limited to what the owners of Deer Valley Trails have provided for him. They've sunk a ton of money into the look of the place, but to be a food destination, they need to give the executive chef free rein. We know he's capable of turning out better dishes than we experienced.
The food needs to catch up with the ambiance. We know Angelo will make it happen.
You can contact restaurant reviewer Walter Siebel via
Deer Valley Trails
4677 Blue Mountain Road
St. Regis Falls, N.Y.
1 (518) 856-9243
A beautiful, modern rustic building with comfortable Adirondack ambiance.
HOURS: Spring hours are in effect, open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday
We enjoyed Angelo's hearty chili and his beautiful salads. Be sure to try his specialty, chicken Parmesan with homemade marinara sauce over linguini.
RATING: 3 forks