Photo by Michael Gardiner
Braised lamb shank
For decades Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort’s owners have aspired to turn the place into an upscale, A-list destination resort like Aspen or Vail. With the mountain’s natural snow catch basin, unparalleled lift system and proximity to Hollywood (as well as San Diego), it always seemed like a natural fit. Successive owners have poured money into the place, giving the hill the look of an upscale resort, but the beautiful people haven’t exactly followed. Then there’s the case of Skadi Restaurant (94 Berner St., Suite A).
Where Mammoth’s masters have proclaimed their ambitions but struggled on the execution, Skadi Chef Ian Algerøen has worked quietly for the better part of two decades to give Mammoth a high-end restaurant worthy of a celebrity ski town. And he’s definitely done so. Algerøen is half Norwegian, and the place is named after the Norse goddess of skiing so it should come as no surprise that the restaurant features Scandinavian-influenced cuisine. It is not so much Noma-style New Nordic as much as that Algerøen’s food is, as he puts it, “reflective of my Alpine life, European training and my Norse heritage.”
Take, for example, Skadi’s Canadian duck breast with Arctic lingonberries, juniper and aquavit. Algerøen pairs these Scandinavian flavors with brown butter spaetzle, creating a dish that is at once classic and exciting. One of the marquee mains was a grilled medallion and a sausage of venison (originally from his business partner’s ranch) coupled with a porcini mushroom risotto cake, roast mushrooms, garlic confit and spinach. The earthy flavors of the mushrooms tamed the slight gaminess of the venison while enhancing its heady qualities.
One of Skadi’s newer dishes is a pork trio featuring pork belly confit and roast spiced tenderloin along with house-made jagerwurst. The porks—ranging from the leanest to fattiest cuts—create an enormous soundstage that Algerøen populates with sauerkraut, fingerling potatoes and applesauce, balancing the richness of the pork. The textural contrasts between the three meats alone—ranging from the crispy top of the pork belly to the tenderness of the lean tenderloin—is feature enough. But the presentation, quite nearly an abstract painting, is every bit as remarkable as the dish is tasty.
Skadi’s appetizers emphasize charcuterie. It is impossible to go wrong with the torchon of foie gras with toasted brioche and glögg-poached pear slices. The spice of the glögg cuts perfectly through the richness of the foie gras. Some of the best starters are the house-smoked trout with horseradish cream and a classic Norwegian gravlax (cured but not smoked salmon) risotto potato cake, cucumber salad and mustard-dill sauce. It is Algerøen at his most classic.
Skadi’s desserts are both delicious and visually stunning. From the sculptural qualities of the gateau financier with peach sorbet (not to mention the contrast between the fruity sorbet and the rich, moist almond flour cake) to the gorgeous, painterly strokes of the Meyer lemon panna cotta, lemon curd and lemon pistachio biscotti, they’re not to be skipped. Ski them off tomorrow.
Mammoth may never be the celebrity-magnet resort it so badly wants to be when it grows up. But it already has an A-list quality restaurant ready for those stars should that eventuality ever come to pass.