Our server Kara (who resembles a much more attractive Maggie Gyllenhaal) reasons that The Sawtooth Club is the number one restaurant in the country. That was news to me so I asked how she arrived at that conclusion. Her reasoning is that the Sawtooth Club has been the highest rated restaurant in the Sun Valley for five consecutive years. The Sun Valley is currently rated the number one ski resort in the country. Ergo, one highest rated restaurant plus one highest rated ski resort equals the best restaurant in the country. That’s akin to fuzzy math, but Kara is so cute I was almost inclined to agree with her.
From the balcony of our rental in Ketchum, Idaho we could almost make out the steep, grassy slopes which weeks before had been covered in snow. What we couldn’t see at all was the craggy Sawtooth Mountains which backdrop the village of Ketchum and the fabled Sun Valley. Most of the valley was shrouded in pea soup-thick soup with a persistent rain falling throughout much of our two day stay. The Sawtooth Mountains hold a special place in my imagination as well as Hollywood’s. Movies such as the visually stunning Jeremiah Johnson (1972) and The Revenant (2015) showcased the rugged men surmounting jagged mountains and the even more jagged teeth of ferocious grizzlies. All those staged reality survival television shows pale in comparison with the rugged reality faced by America’s mountain men.
The Discover Ketchum website illustrates some of the lure of this Sun Valley gem: “Ketchum is a vibrant community nestled in the Rocky Mountains of central Idaho. Our authentic mountain town is set against a backdrop of blue skies, crystal clear waterways, endless hiking and mountain biking trails and world-class skiing. Ketchum’s lively downtown boasts a variety of restaurants, shops and art galleries, and is home to numerous cultural events throughout the year. For residents and visitors, Ketchum offers a high quality of life with a small town feel.” What the site doesn’t make clear is just how expensive it can be to live in the Sun Valley. Let’s just say it’s a place beloved by billionaires.
Knowing we probably couldn’t afford those restaurants frequented by the area’s deep-pocketed tycoons, we still managed to dine at the “number one restaurant in the country.” The Sawtooth Club sits on a very busy Main Street not too far from our rental. Its storefront is understated and rustic. Its interior is appointed in wood. Wood, wood, wood everywhere. Three floors of it. It’s definitely got a masculine look and feel. Is it any wonder legendary actor Steve McQueen considered it one of his favorite hangouts back when it was known as “The Yacht Club.” You can almost imagine “Bullitt” driving the clogged streets of Ketchum to make his 6:30 reservations (not that he needed them).
The Sawtooth Club website describes its culinary fare as “a unique blend of American steakhouse classics, fresh seafood, wild game, unique pasta dishes and much more. Many entrees are cooked over live, mesquite-wood fire, and all are prepared with a singular creative flair.” The menu–dining room and bar–is indeed unique and definitely diverse, but it’s not one of those menus that tries to offer everything to anyone. It’s not a compendium of everything you could possibly want to order. It’s one of the more intriguing menus we’ve experienced in our travels.
Though similarly landlocked, Idaho is closer to the ocean than the Land of Enchantment. We reasoned that seafood is probably flown in fresh on a regular basis. That made the Fresh Northeast Steamer Clams (a full pound, steamed in a broth of butter, white wine, garlic and herbs, served with sliced Bigwood Bakery baguette) a logical choice for a starter. Good call! Summertime clams are sweeter because they feed on plankton and other nutrients that wash up from the shoreline. These had a well-balanced flavor profile with a nice proportion of sweet and briny taste of the sea. The broth was outstanding, the type of broth for which you’ll need more bread so you can sop it all up.
Regular readers are probably tired of my declaration of love for curries. Whether Indian, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, et al, I love them all. Even my favorite meteorologist is a curry…of sorts. My eyes immediately trained on one menu item heretofore never experienced, something called Chicken Sengalese (Red Bird Farms’ free-range chicken breast, sautéed in a light cream sauce of curry, fresh apples, shallots and apple brandy). Noting my brawny frame, Kara probably thought I’d be ordering one of the restaurant’s massive meaty dishes. She seemed surprised I’d be asking about a chicken dish. She then described it as one of the restaurant’s best dishes, especially if you love curry. Does a coyote love roadrunner meat?
The Chicken Sengalese was absolutely magnificent, maybe the single best dish I’ve had in 2023 and one of the best curry dishes I’ve had anywhere. We may have to move to Ketchum to enjoy it more often. This is a three or four times a week dish I wouldn’t tire of. Chicken, my least favorite poultry, is elevated to gloriously gilded bird of paradise, a voluptuous (yes, voluptuous) breast covered in almost enough curry to appease this curry crazy curmudgeon. Hints of apple brandy and waifishly thin apple slices provide a tangy counterbalance to the rich, sweet curry. Accompaniment for this paragon of poultry pulchritude included a loaded Idaho baked potato. As Madelyn Kahn told Sheriff Bart when asked if it’s true that Idaho potatoes are fabulous, it’s twoo, it’s twoo. Also fabulous were the vegetable of the day: the freshest, crispest, most verdant snap peas we’ve had in maybe forever.
While most meat dishes that aren’t smothered in curry don’t do much for me, my Chicago born-and-bred bride probably loves a good steak more than she does her adoring husband. The Sawtooth Club is reputed to serve the best steak in Sun Valley. The filet mignon (specially-aged, northwest grown, grass-fed beef, hand-cut at 8 ounces, flame-broiled, finished with a rich red wine demi-glace) lives up to that designation. It is as tender as a sigh. Not only is filet mignon the most tender and unctuous cut of beef courtesy of its rich marbling of fat, it’s a steak that almost excites me. Yeah, take away my man card. It’s more important to me that my Kim likes steak. She loves this one.
During our June, 2023 vacation we traveled some 2,500 miles over two weeks. Our sojourn covered parts of four states (Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado) where we dined on some exceptional food. The one dish that surprised and delighted me most (along with the Royal Poppy Seed Chocolate Ganache Cake at Alyonka) was the aforementioned Chicken Sengalese. Like the Sawtooth Club, it’s a must when you visit Ketchum.
231 Main Street
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LATEST VISIT: 8 June 2023
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Filet Mignon, Chicken Senegalese, Northwest Steamer Clams