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Menu Please: View 202 – All That Glitters is not Gold

Not everyone loved the old Hatch Cover Restaurant, but it held a warm place in Femme de Joie’s heart from many get-togethers with family and friends over the years. She loved the retro-70s vibe with the piped-in Pablo Cruise-y music, the cozy sofa nook in the lounge, that weird painting of the man in black heading down the stairs in the lighthouse, the cute waiters in Hawaiian shirts, even the cherry-scented liquid soap in the ladies’ room. The food wasn’t haute cuisine, to be sure, but it was competently prepared and great value for money. (There was a Chico branch of the Hatch Cover too, set so far back from the Esplanade that it was barely noticeable under the trees.) It just about broke M. de Joie’s  heart ten years ago when she drove past the old Hatch Cover and saw all that lovely wood from the interior broken and tossed into dumpsters like worn-out holey socks.  After a series of unfortunate and untoward events, the late Rivers opened and closed two years later; in 2012, Redding restaurant empresario Joe Wong opened View 202 on that spot.

Clearie’s, Moonstone Bistro, Nello’s Place, Cafe Paradisio, Market Street Steakhouse, Peter Chu’s, Gironda’s, and View 202, among others, all compete for the diner looking for that special occasion restaurant. What is that special something, that je ne sais quoi, that makes the consumer choose one place over another?  Is it the buzz, the bartender who knows your special drink, the dark corner where a discreet affair can be carried out, the salad dressing? With the demographics and population of Redding, a place like View 202 needs to set itself apart from the others, to court consumers seeking white-tablecloth occasion dining. But are they getting their money’s worth?

Femme de Joie enjoys a well-appointed restaurant interior as well as a kitschy one, but she can’t figure out what’s going on at View 202. It was as if three or four decorators were each given a section to work on – a white wall splashed with big blowsy flowers befitting a ladies’ tearoom; the patio’s mishmash of black wicker chairs, white plastic chairs, and red and purple sofas; an ultra-modern exterior; plain faux-granite tabletops, concrete floors, and Ikea-inspired hanging lights. It appears to have been inspired by Carnival Cruise Line ships, not to dis Carnival.

Ahi avocado burger and cup of Pismo Beach clam chowder, $15.00

When Femme de Joie orders a burger, she expects to get, you know, a burger. She would not have described this as a burger. Four thin slices of ahi – a meaty-textured fish – were seared rare and placed on a rather good brioche bun along with an extremely small fan of thin avocado slices.  The wasabi-lime slaw was overwhelmingly bitter;  a couple of black soy beans does not an aioli make. Other than the bitter slaw and the buttery brioche, this was one bland sandwich.

Femme de Joie doesn’t know what distinguishes Pismo Beach clam chowder from any other creamy clam chowder, though perhaps it was the lump of melted cheese she found glommed onto the bottom of the soup cup. The soup was on the thin side but the cheese was on the thick side, so it balanced out.

Cherry Tart, $5.00

On a visit for dinner, M. de Joie asked if she could sit and have a drink before dinner. The hostess offered her “the couch.” Where couch? Outside, inside? It turned out to be on the patio, as there were Happy Hour specials “on the couch,” though it wasn’t clear if those specials could be had not on the couch. The hostess seemed determined that the couch should be occupied.

Once M. de Joie had her Cherry Tart, described as a whiskey sour with fresh cherries (the Maraschino cherry didn’t qualify as fresh and there weren’t any other cherries in the glass), she became invisible for an hour. Other than one waitress asking if she would like to order a bar snack, M. de Joie was completely ignored. While Femme de Joie is of that age where she is passed over in favor of younger and hotter women, it seemed a bit remarkable how completely she was forgotten. Eventually she had to get up and go find the hostess to ask to be seated for dinner, who began preparing a place for her on the by-then chilly patio- which M. de Joie demurred in favor of a table indoors.

Warm bread came with herb olive oil made with celery, basil, parsley, and capers as described by the female waitstaff who filled water glasses- she said she made it. The oil was delicious, the bread average.

Maseca calamari, $13

Spicy Fresno chilies and the medium-hot sauce were the best things about this appetizer. While the breading was evenly cooked, the calamari strips were floppy, not crisp, and on the oily side.

Steak frites, $19.00

When food processors became popular in the late 1970s, purees suddenly appeared on every plate. Purees of turnips and zucchini, carrot and beet, potatoes and apple. It was part of the nouvelle cuisine movement, which happily disappeared quickly as diners realized they didn’t particularly care for baby food on their plates.  Remember Nora Ephron’s great line, “Pesto is the quiche of the ’80’s”? Sous-vide appears to be the food processor of the 2010s. Sous-vide is translated as “under vacuum” but might be better described as “in a boiling bag.”  It’s the darling of certain modernist chefs but to Femme de Joie, it’s an annoying fad that will eventually wind up on garage sale tables alongside Bacon Bowl makers, Taco Salad Shell makers, and Salad Shooters.

So: The steak did not appear to be grilled; it appeared to be cooked sous-vide with grill marks added later. While sous-vide ensures an extremely tender steak, it also eliminates the flavorful crisp and seasoned browned exterior – the Maillard reaction.  The interior is one uniform color – here, pink (M. de Joie ordered it cooked rare) – and one uniform mouthfeel (soft). However, with the fatty, enveloping coat of butter – not just a melting pat, but a cold cream-like swath – any exterior browning was completely smothered. Limp shoestring potatoes were so salty with Parmesan and bacon that even a salty-food addict such as M. de Joie couldn’t get through them.  Described on the menu as “grilled bistro fillet, crispy pancetta and brown butter sauce atop a mountain of Parmesan shoestring fries,” this was a far cry from the simple and superb steak frites served in even the meanest French bistro.

Smoked corned beef sandwich with chopped starter salad, $13.00

House-smoked corned beef was smoky but also very dry and fibrous. Combined with bacon-braised sauerkraut and aged white cheddar, it made for an unpleasantly salty sandwich.  A very small chopped starter salad served in an even smaller bowl was awkward to stab with a fork but freshly made and crisp.

Side of macaroni and cheese, $6.00

M. de Joie liked the intense Cheddar taste of the macaroni and cheese; though it was a little watery when first served, the sauce thickened upon standing to cling to al dente pasta.

What to say about View 202? The view is nice from the patio. Waitstaff was mostly helpful and friendly (though it bugs M. de Joie when she asks a question and gets, “Uhhhh, I’m not really sure….” Just say you don’t know, then go find out). But the food misses the mark – so much and so often so that she felt it was a waste of good ingredients as well as overpriced for the end result.

Speaking of overpriced: an uninspired glass of Markham Sauvignon Blanc (year unknown; why isn’t the year on the wine list?) cost $9/ $32 for a bottle, yet BevMo sells it for $10.99. Alexander Valley’s Redemption Zinfandel was a much better wine but View 202 priced it the same as the Markham; Wine.com sells the 2012 for $12.99.  Even more shocking, $14 a glass for Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, available at BevMo for $6.99 a bottle. If you want to bring your own wine, View 202 charges $18 corkage (compared to $12 at Nello’s Place and $15 at Clearie’s and Moonstone Bistro).  Femme de Joie has nothing against restaurants making a profit – that is why they’re in business – but she does object to blatant gouging.

Obviously Femme de Joie is missing whatever View 202’s fans see in it. She has no problem with spending money in high-end restaurants if the product is worth the price, but she doesn’t see that value at View 202. She might have a glass of iced tea on the patio, but she’ll eat elsewhere.

View 202, 202 Hemsted Drive, Redding, CA 96002. 530-226-8439. Serving lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Open Monday through Thursday, 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM,  Friday and Saturday, 11:00 AM to midnight, Sunday 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Cash and cards. Parking lot. Vegetarian and vegan options. Full bar. Website at http://view202redding.com/
Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Chamberlain, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com

Femme de Joie

Femme de Joie's first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.

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