by Alice Levitt
1710 Shelburne Road, South Burlington 865-3900
Years ago, I tried to have lunch at the Lake-View. I waited at the bar forever for someone to come seat me. They never did, and I never went back – until last night. Working on their Vermont Restaurant Week menu, I was so tantalized, I just had to give the place another try. I was not disappointed.
The table I chose in the bar section of the greenhouse-like space was extraordinarily comfy. The seats were stuffed as soft and cuddly as grandma's sofa. A neon sign blaring "The Beef" hung jauntily over the bar, a tribute to the room's long-ago existence as What's the Beef II.
The meal started with a basket on teensy honey wheat rolls, hot from the oven. I tried the blood orange salad. The whole assemblage worked together wonderfully – the richly sweet citrus paired with anise-redolent fennel, tangy chèvre, field greens and sunflower seeds in white balsamic vinaigrette. The creamy garlic soup tasted of just that and was eminently satisfying.
The Chicken Pot Pie also had a pleasantly garlicky taste, along with perfectly cooked chunks of root vegetables, spinach and Misty Knoll chicken, all housed under a dense umbrella of puff pastry. Pork Schnitzel (pictured) was coated unconventionally in cornmeal as well as bread crumbs. The dish, served over sharp dijon spaetzle and spinach, brought to mind the chicken schnitzel that for years was my favorite lunch dish at Butler's in Essex.
I was delighted to dig in to the caper and onion covered cutlets, which had not an ounce of fat. The one flaw, which the dish shared with the long-discontinued version at the Essex, was too little sauce. The menu advertises lemon caper butter sauce, but it was barely discernible. Nonetheless, I would return for that plate of food alone.
Dessert included apple crisp (pictured) with apples cooked to a wonderful level of softness: No crunch, but they didn't disintegrate either. The more exciting choice was maple-cardamom crème brulée. Bits of cardamom and vanilla bean were clearly visible at the bottom of the tureen. The dessert was served slightly above room temperature, a huge credit to the kitchen in a world where too often, I'm served crème brulées clearly straight out of the fridge.
The menu at the Lake-View is so full of appealing choices, I know I must return. Whether I'll go with the Cider-Braised Lamb Shank or Beer-Braised Yankee Pot Roast, I'm not sure. According to my server, the only thing not worth trying is the chicken sandwich. I've got a lot of work ahead of me.