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RESTAURANT REVIEW: Village Inn Restaurant


RESTAURANT REVIEW: Monte Rio’s Village Inn Restaurant
Locally-Sourced Perfection

By Amy Levine

The historic Village Inn must be Monte Rio’s best kept secret. Perched above the Russian River on a side street, my dining partner and I had the place mostly to ourselves. Last April, new owner Judy Harvey updated the decor and hired new executive chef, Christopher Ludwick, so we wanted to see how it had fared since it had changed hands. We were pleasantly surprised. The atmosphere was warm and festively decorated for the holidays. Yes, there were white table cloths but it wasn’t overly stuffy. After all, this is the Russian River, Vacation Wonderland, where people can wander in from a day of canoeing or escaping from the kids and cozy up to a glass of local Chardonnay. They have an impressive Sonoma County wine list as well as a full bar and a gorgeous view. What could be better?

We started out the evening with glasses of Hartford Court, Russian River Chardonnay which went perfectly with the soup du jour, wild mushroom bisque. The soup was delicately garnished with crunchy fried potatoes, a splash of cream, a bit of chanterelle and just a drizzle of something sweet. It was delicious, locally-sourced and seasonal. French bread was on the table with an (and I don’t use this word lightly) adorable pat of herb butter. 

The County Line Arugula Salad wasn’t as thrilling as the previous course. I wanted the dressing to be a bit more astringent to counter balance the sweet caramelized hazelnuts which reminded me of peanut brittle, something I’m not fond of. But the presentation was impressive with the arugula sitting on a fan of paper-thin slices of asian pears and Redwood Hill goat cheese from Sebastopol dotted throughout. 

For the main course, I ordered the Butternut Squash Risotto. I’ve tasted a lot of risottos, even in Italy, and this was really delicious and a perfect antidote for the cold weather. The arborio rice had a wonderfully chewy texture. Many risottos are impatiently cooked so the rice becomes gelatinous. This risotto was a deep saffron yellow with small chunks of butternut squash and tiny mushrooms mixed in for variety and flavor. The chef topped it with pumpkin seeds, tiny beet sprouts and a leaf of bloody dock for an amazing  presentation. Almost too beautiful too eat, but I managed somehow. 

My partner had the Grass Fed Beef Short Ribs from SunFed Ranch which was set on a bed of mashed potatoes, carrots and beets surrounded by an outstanding Cabernet jus. I thought the chef had mixed up our order as the ribs were ribless. But the server assured us that this was the right dish. No matter, it was so perfectly cooked you could cut it with a fork.

Other dishes on the menu were equally enticing such as whole roasted Branzino, a type of sea bass, accompanied with black-eyed peas, bacon, truffle jus and hush puppies. And for the vegetarian, baked acorn squash with grits, wild mushrooms in a balsamic porcini reduction.

Unbelievably, we still had room to share a dessert. We had a choice of apple cobbler, pumpkin cheesecake, a variety of Three Twins Ice Cream or chocolate torte. Our server confided they had one more vanilla bean crème brûlée which came with a mini chocolate eclair. I can rarely resist a crème brûlée. At one point, I even made it a life’s goal to eat crème brûlée every time I went to a new place where it was offered. But I soon nixed this idea should the experience become ho-hum. Then we shared a glass of Ficklin Port which was the sweet ending to a delightful evening.

Whether you are visiting from parts unknown or locals heading toward the coast looking for a new dining adventure, The Village Inn is a romantic gem of a destination that deserves to be experienced.  They’re open for dinner at 5 pm Wednesday to Sunday. Bar & Small Plates are offered from 3 pm.

Village Inn & Restaurant
20822 River Boulevard, Monte Rio,  707.865.2304