A mile or so into the woods past busy downtown Mammoth Lakes, California—bustling with mega-condo complexes and shops—The Lakefront restaurant is quietly changing the landscape of Mammoth dining for the better.
Tucked away inside the historic 90-year-old Tamarack Lodge, the cozy restaurant is cabin-rustic with a view of stunning Twin Lakes. If you are lucky enough to go in the autumn, your view will be accented with bursts of autumn yellows from the surrounding Aspen and Cottonwood trees.
The Tamarack Lodge and Lakefront Restaurant in Mammoth Lakes California
If you haven’t been to The Lakefront in the past year you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, LLC Executive Chef Marc Mora recently hired a talented young Chef de Cuisine named Bobby Brown for this special restaurant. Brown is a graduate of the world-famous Culinary Institute of America in New York and he, along with his talented team, are doing magical things in The Lakefront’s tiny kitchen.
Brown’s culinary philosophy is to procure as much local produce, fish, chicken and meat as possible and create dishes that are ingenious and resourceful. Ingenious in the way the Eastern Sierra Alpers Trout (a mild pink-fleshed fish) is served on a savory bed of lentils with house-smoked bacon and puréed squash, with a topping of frisée, pickled Fresno chiles and Meyer lemon that is somehow delicately tart and sweet. Resourceful in that at the end of the trout season, Chef Brown will purchase more trout than he could possibly serve fresh and smoke the fish to create the Smoked Alpers Trout Cake (served with arugula, celery root and fennel slaw) thereby extending the trout season for his lucky diners.
Brown sources his produce from a local organic farm called Banner Springs Ranch. Again, true to his philosophy, Brown overbuys plenty of local veggies to pickle or preserve in order to extend the summer flavors into the winter season in creative ways, thus bringing what Brown calls “artisan cooking” to the area.
Brown occasionally goes über-local and will forage for his ingredients. Recently he harvested a gigantic mushroom growing in the forest by the lodge and consulted a local expert to find out what he had. It turned out to be a Sawtooth Mushroom, an edible variety of local fungi, which Brown quickly put to use in his restaurant. Brown also forages the nearby forest for mint and other wild edibles to add to his dishes.
His focus on presentation and homemade flavors is apparent in every dish. His potato leek soup garnished with pretty homemade purple potato chips and fried shredded green onions has an incredibly creamy pudding-like texture and a homey taste.
I was fortunate to taste some dishes that Brown is trying out for the upcoming winter menu including a robust short rib with a 24-hour braise made with black currents and served with mashed potatoes and Point Reyes cheese that elevates comfort food to the divine.
Clockwise from top left: Short Ribs with a 24-hour braise of black currents, served with mashed potatoes and Point Reyes cheese; Oysters with pickled ramp, ginger mignonette and passionfruit gelee; Cioppino of mussels, little neck clams, poached quail egg, pickled ramp, pickled Fresno chili, pearl onion and fennel; Baby Beet Salad with goat cheese mousse, spiced pecans, horseradish, brown butter and sherry vinaigrette, basil.
For dessert, Brown’s focus on homemade flavors was apparent in his clever take on peanut butter and jelly. He makes a peanut butter fudge with a Concord grape filling just like mom never made. The taste is familiar yet oh, so decadent.
If you are planning to ski or snowboard Mammoth Lakes this winter spoil yourself for a night at this fantastic restaurant. Better yet, come in the shoulder season of spring or autumn, leave the crowds behind, and enjoy a quiet hike in the woods followed by a truly inspired meal.
The Lakefront Restaurant
163 Twin Lakes Road
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546