Our Gourmet: Great dining, great views at The Hilltop

March 28. 2017 10:04PM
Pan-seared salmon over grilled tomato and pesto risotto, served at The Hilltop restaurant at Sanbornton's Steele Hill Resort. 
The Hilltop at Steele Hill Resort
518 Steele Hill Road, Sanbornton; 524-0500, 800-918-6118; steelehillresorts.com

Weekdays 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. (closed Wednesdays); Saturdays 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Cuisine: American.

Dinner pricing: Entrees $13.95-$28.95; sandwiches/pizza $9.95-$19.95; soups/salads/apps $6.95-$14.95.

The scores for The Hilltop
Atmosphere: 17/20
Menu: 18/20
Food: 18/20
Service: 17/20
Value: 17/20
TOTAL: 87/100

High on a hill just outside Laconia, the Steele Hill Resort in Sanbornton is a sprawling property of vacation condos, swimming pools, a golf course, a campground and other resort amenities that members of the timeshare community have long enjoyed for summer, fall and winter getaways.

Outside, the hiking trails, snowmobile trails, private wooded forest and a host of family activities offer guests a quality stay, and inside the solid wood-construction inn building is ample space for weddings, meetings, parties and meals. The Hilltop restaurant offers panoramic views of Lake Winnisquam and the Laconia area, and boasts a menu that delivers.

We have stayed in larger and fancier resorts whose restaurants do not match The Hilltop.

Having never driven up Steele Hill — we didn’t even know it was there until a friend informed us — we were surprised to find such a large vacation property just a few miles from downtown Laconia. The restaurant is open to the public.

The ample menu incorporates seafood, aged beef, sandwiches, chicken, pasta, burgers, pizza and pork. We settled in with a glass of wine and a couple of appetizers.

The Calamari Fra Diavolo ($11.95) had plentiful portions of fried calamari rings and tentacles in a delicious garlic, wine, butter and parsley sauce with plenty of sliced red cherry peppers and some Parmesan cheese. It was a good-sized serving that easily satisfies two as an appetizer, accompanied by warm ciabatta rolls and butter.

Our second starter was an above-average arugula goat cheese salad (demi $6.95, entree $13.95), which was a mound of baby arugula tossed with a raspberry-lemon vinaigrette, topped by sliced roasted pears, crumbled goat cheese and candied pecans.

The Arugula was fresh and plentiful, and the goat cheese was moist and sharp. The pear and pecan additions balanced the variety of tastes with a pizazz of their own. A very good salad that we thought would go perfectly next time with a burger or a specialty pizza.

Entrees at The Hilltop range from a fancy Delmonico ribeye steak ($28.95) to a haddock fish and chips plate ($16.95) to baked gouda Macaroni and Cheese ($14.95), with many chicken, duck and seafood dishes in between.

First up at our table was a hearty seafood entree, Pan-Seared Salmon ($21.95). A big filet of seared salmon lay atop a tasty grilled tomato, on top of an equally large helping of creamy pesto risotto. All the elements in this fine dish were prepared with care and presented with a flourish, and the salmon was deliciously fresh and juicy. We were satisfied and happy to bring about a third of the meal home.

Our second entree, another seafood dish, was simple, but rich in preparation. Creole Shrimp and Scallops ($24.95) was deceptively arranged on the plate, with the seafood in the outside circle, coated with a spicy creole and tomato sauce, with angel hair pasta untouched and unsauced in a perfect circle in the center of the dish. What you could not see was all the rest of the pasta beneath the seafood and the sauce.

Also hidden were the rest of the tasty tidbits that combined with the creole seasoning to give this dish a kick, including garlic shallots, pancetta and slices of various bell peppers. As the meal unfolded, the seafood took center stage — three very large shrimp and three very large sea scallops. Each piece of seafood was a three-biter, and the pasta and sauce provided a terrific complement to the fish.

We were very pleased by both of our entrees, and the asparagus as a house vegetable also showed class and expertise from the kitchen. It was sauteed simply, but coated with a rich butter and garlic sauce. It was a simple but luxurious side dish that to us epitomized the experience of dining in a really good restaurant — and the Hilltop at Steele Hill is exactly that.

Our GourmetSanbornton

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