Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wendell's Restaurant At The Inn of the Mountain Gods... A Review

Last week Mr. Snooty and I embarked on a ski trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico; where I've been skiing for the last 35 years or so. Out of those 35 years, I've stayed at The Inn probably 24 of those 35 years and never really had a complaint except for the way the tribe members (the staff) treat guests/tourists. Until now.

While staying at The Inn Of The Mountain Gods (IOTMG), Ruidoso had a monster storm that dropped something like 26 inches of snow, which meant we'd be eating at the hotel, for every meal, during our stay. Unfortunately, they have gone downhill since my last stay.

Now mind you, Ruidoso has had a few hard years to suffer through... Like no significant amount of snow for the last three years and a horribly destructive flood a couple of years ago. The town has been struggling the last few years and many of the better restaurants we liked have closed for good. So, the IOTMG offers the best cuisine in the area. That used to be a good thing, but not now. It is situated in a lovely picturesque mountain setting and in addition to the hotel, they also have a casino, all located on Mescalero Apache Indian land. They own and run the ski area as well.

We ate a total of three evening meals at Wendell's and although there was some great food, most of it was not so great. I learned (the hard way) that if I wanted a steak Medium, I had to order it Rare. That alone, was enough to send me into a rant. However, our waiters were excellent and did their best to offset the faux pas coming out of the kitchen.

The first night we started out with an appetizer called the Prawn & Alaskan Crab Martini, which was to die for, along with our real martinis.

I think the one thing that irritated me the most was that the menu states if you order their Classic Caesar Salad, it would be made table side. It was not made table side and it was not a Classic Caesar Salad. It tasted like bottled Creamy Caesar Dressing, which we both detest. Strike One.

Mr. Snooty ordered the Lincoln County Elk Tenderloin, to be cooked Medium-Rare. It arrived at the table Medium-Well done, which was a waste of perfectly good Elk meat. Strike Two.

I ordered the Pecan Crusted Salmon but didn't want all the calories from the pecans, so I asked them to grill my salmon. They baked it instead and it was waaaay overdone. Frankly, it was disgusting. Strike Three.

Having no other choice (due to the severe snow storm), we ate there again the next night as well. This time I ordered the Petite Filet Mignon Oscar and although the steak was overcooked, it was still delicious. This time, I opted for the Wedge Salad and it was fabulous. Mr. Snoots ordered the same thing and his steak was overcooked as well. We continued to be unimpressed.

Our last night there, we ate at Wendell's again and I had the same meal as the night before, as did Mr. Snooty. We ordered our filet mignons to be cooked Rare (minus the crab) this time and they came out cooked Medium, which was an improvement I suppose. Overall, we were totally not impressed. However, the wait service was excellent, which is the most I can say about Wendell's. The Mescalero Apache Indian Tribe runs this place and they make it quite clear they don't like anyone who isn't from their tribe. None of the wait staff were Mescaleros, which explains their civility. However, I have my doubts about the kitchen staff.

They did offer several other venues for meals but nothing more than the standard, boring fare found at any average hotel/casino (or fast food place). The Inn used to be such a fabulous place to stay but apparently they are under different tribal management since building their new hotel and it just isn't the same caliber as it was before. Don't get me wrong. The rooms and views are the nicest in the Ruidoso area, and the hotel in general is beautiful. They have nice amenities and plenty of space in the rooms. The room service is still the best I've ever had, which I found to be ironic.

Their biggest failure, in my opinion, is letting the lovely dining at Wendell's go to the dogs. The funny thing is that this new dining room is smaller than the original one in the old hotel. Go figure.