The Margarita at PineCreek earns regular acclaim for its fresh and creative, nightly prix fixe menu and its patio-packing summertime dinner-and-a-movie series. If you've never dined in the gorgeous, Mexican-tiled interior of the 1970s-era stucco restaurant (equal parts adobe, Woody Allen film locale and desert-planet Star Wars hut), you should.
Complete with scenic landscape views, artsy handmade tables and sexy, curved walls with odd-shaped windows, the space feels like an exotic foreign escape at night. During weekday lunch, and especially Sunday brunch, it invites opulent sunshine.
Having heard about, but never tried, the Margarita's morning fare, brunch was the goal of two recent ventures to the northwest destination.
On each visit, our drink orders (highlighted by house-brewed cinnamon tea and fresh-squeezed orange juice) came with a bit of fruit and a complimentary coffee cake rich with brown sugar, butter, oats and pecans.
While we awaited food, fall leaves danced capriciously in the wind outside our window. Gus the greeter dog (a large German shepherd sporting a neck bib that relayed both name and role) ambled by, occasionally chasing a pinecone tossed by a willing patron entering or exiting the building.
Entre No. 1 was huevos rancheros ($12), a difficult choice over the enchiladas du jour ($11). Hearty and not too spicy, it also boasted regal presentation: two crispy corn tortilla bowls spilling over with pork green chili, refried beans and melted cheese, all topped with poached eggs.
Next up: crabmeat eggs Benedict ($16). A take on the menu's regular Benedict plate ($12), it subbed seafood for Canadian bacon and added Mornay sauce (a bchamel sauce of milk, flour and butter with cheese). Paired with the hollandaise already smooth, creamy thick and cholesterol-rich the Mornay completed the recipe for dangerous (as in tasty) brunch crack.
Between two lunchier salmon dishes, ordered a week apart, the leek-artichoke and Parmesan-baked salmon with jasmine rice and vegetables ($16) won our hearts over the smoked salmon cakes ($12).
The former arrived dressed beautifully in braised spinach and bright purple cabbage. (Extra marks for getting purple onto the plate in good taste, a rare food treat and surprising to the eye.) The fine-diced leek, artichokes and Parmesan bore a pesto consistency, having gifted their flavored sweat to the soft pink meat. This dish would work at any meal of the day.
The lighter ground-salmon cakes, served over greens in a lemon-herb vinaigrette, did not impart as much memorable character. But they were good, and for those who enjoy the purity of individual ingredients, this might prove a smart option the lemon and dill (used in the accompanying dipping sauce) didn't diffuse the fresh vegetable and natural fish flavor.
Among side orders, the asparagus and hollandaise ($5) offered a great hollandaise fix sans eggs. The Applewood smoked bacon ($4, four strips) was sinfully delicious, as almost all bacon is.
With bills totaling $40 and $57 after gratuity, the Margarita made for a pricey brunch, but a well-serviced, relaxed and delicious one, as well.
The Margarita at PineCreek
7350 Pine Creek Road, 598-8667, margaritaatpinecreek.com
Brunch hours: 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.