Montage at Deer Valley 

Magic Mountain: Apex, Daly's and Vista up the ante.

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I’ve gotta be honest: I didn’t really want to like this place. I remember skiing down to Empire Canyon at Deer Valley Resort last year, only to be stunned—appalled, in fact—at the under-construction monstrosity that was the nascent Montage Hotel and Resort, blocking all views of the mountain scenery behind it. It was as if someone had taken a block of New York City apartments and plopped it down in the middle of Empire Canyon. Now that the resort is complete, however, it’s much easier on the eyes, if still mighty imposing. So, my thinking was, “A place that announces itself this loudly had better be damned good.”

I expected excellent restaurant service, since Montage food & beverage director Tim Flowers—who hails originally from Napa and the Michael Mina restaurant group—brought chefs, servers and managers with him from the Laguna Beach Montage and hired a few from Las Vegas along with some hand-picked locals, such as Apex restaurant manager Steve Solomon, previously with Zoom. And indeed, service at Montage—from hostesses and bussers to servers like Kyle, Danielle and Jennie and lead sommelier Casey Brogdon—was right in line with what we expect from Deer Valley: outstanding. During consecutive visits, there wasn’t a fly anywhere in the Montage ointment.

But, it’s hotel food, right? Well, not exactly. Or, rather, if this is hotel food, then check me in. There are three main dining options at Montage: Apex, Daly’s and Vista, which range from pub grub and French bistro fare to upscale modern American cuisine.

Daly’s Pub & Rec is a lower-level gastro-pub and fun haven—a terrific place to eat, especially if you’re with kids. In addition to brick-oven pizzas, sandwiches and pub specialties like shepherd’s pie and chicken-fried chicken, Daly’s offers a fun zone aimed at kids young and old: arcade games (vintage and new), billiards, darts and even a three-lane bowling alley, plus flat-screen TVs to watch the pros play.

“This is the best chicken potpie I’ve ever had,” said my wife, after busting through the flaky, buttery crust and into a thick, rich sea swimming with poached chicken breast, carrots, pearl onions, peas and celery ($18). I certainly wouldn’t say she was wrong. But then, the best fish and chips ($19) I’ve ever had were at Daly’s, too. Fresh Atlantic black cod is coated with Montage Mountain Ale beer batter—a golden “session”-type ale brewed by Wasatch Brewery for Montage—deep-fried and served with red-cabbage slaw, lemon and homemade tartar sauce, not to mention some of the best french fries around. The fish was cooked perfectly: still slightly translucent in the center with a delicious crispy crust.

Kids and their parents will both love the cheddar-cheese fondue at Daly’s ($12), with a hint of Dijon mustard and accompanied by soft, salty, home-baked pretzels. They’ll also enjoy the pizzas—my thin-crust Margherita with fresh mozzarella and basil was terrific.

For French bistro/brasserie dining and bar food, there’s Vista Lounge and Terrace, named for its expansive mountain views, featuring items such as classic French onion soup ($10), a market-priced chilled shellfish platter, salmon rillette ($17), foie gras torchon ($21) and tuna Nicoise sliders—a brilliant idea. There’s also a small, but interesting, selection of wines by the glass along with handcrafted cocktails like the raspberry Caipirinha ($13) made with Leblon cachaca, lime and fresh raspberries.

But the pinnacle of Montage dining, for me, is Apex. This is Montage’s “fine dining” restaurant, and one at which I’d expected stratospheric prices. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find Apex pricing in line with most upscale Park City restaurants, and more economical than some—although, in the course of a week I noted that some of the entrees had risen in price between $2 and $4. So, you may want to visit Apex before any additional price increases are made. It’s not cheap, but I think the menu is very fairly priced, overall, for the quantity and quality of food.

A marvelous starter is tortolloni—made from thick, handmade pasta—stuffed with duck confit and served with braised wild mushrooms, tomato and truffled duck jus ($16). I could eat a bucket of these. Pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras ($21) on toasted brioche with an aged huckleberry balsamic drizzle was, well, exactly as lust-inducing as it sounds. In my visits to Apex, the only less-than-flawless item I tasted was chicken noodle soup ($12) with homemade noodles—with not enough of them and too many carrots—in what was supposedly “double broth,” but tasted on the thin side to me.

On the other hand, the herb-roasted chicken ($30) was absolutely fabulous, yet so simple. It’s half of a French poulet rouge roasted to a perfect brown, with a crispy crust but a tender inside, served in its steel roasting pan with sides of wild mushrooms and heavenly homemade lemon-herb spaetzle. This is the type of food I like best, and what Apex excels at: food that isn’t precious or overwrought. There are no inedible garnishes, for example. Most of the items I tasted were prepared simply, allowing top-notch ingredients to speak for themselves—not a lot of complicated sauces or unnecessary accoutrement. It reminds me of the type of flawless food you get at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon or French Laundry restaurants, or maybe Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse.

Pan-seared sustainable sea bass ($36) was, like the chicken and fish downstairs at Daly’s, cooked exquisitely, served with a straightforward tomato ragu, braised artichoke and chive-potato gnocchi. A 20-ounce bone-in prime rib-eye ($54) nearly brought tears to my eyes. There was more, lots more, including spot-on wine service from the Apex staff and Ms. Brogdon and a very interesting range of wines to choose from.

In the words of Schwarzenegger: “I’ll be back.”

MONTAGE
9100 Marsac Avenue
Park City
435-604-1300
MontageDeerValley.com

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