Nothing about this big, modern dining room is as remarkable as its view. If you can snag a table by the window or on the outdoor deck, you will look out over fairways, trees and a little pond, and it’s all pretty darn nice.
Even tables set farther into the room benefit from the pastoral setting, as the windows are generous and the dining room is cunningly designed with few obstacles in the way of the wilds.
Wild Wood is a perfectly pleasant-looking restaurant, long and leggy, with bare tables and leather-like chairs spaced over patterned carpet.
It’s in Stittsville, on the Amberwood Village Golf and Country Club, though the restaurant is operated separately. While you don’t need to be associated with the club to dine here, many members seem to do that.
Those who look as though they’ve just spent the past few hours walking the view seem to be at the red-lit bar, eyes glued to the game on the flat screen, their backs to that which the rest of us seek out.
Knowing there’s no glut of good dining in Stittsville, I arrive with fingers crossed. I want to like this restaurant. But I’ve mined the menu, looking for treats, and found that mostly this kitchen cooks to satisfy a hunger, not to please the palate.
It all starts off pretty well with a French onion soup. A trio of onions in a dark, boozy broth with a roof of cheese on toast works just fine. Bread too is impressive, butter served at room temperature, poised on a fun little spoon.
We try to overlook the beets in the beet salad – they are undercooked, under seasoned and dull – but we like the greens, the chunks of blue cheese, the walnuts.
And then spirits sink as we wait 40 minutes for a tepid, so-what-ish steak, cooked more medium than rare, served with a non-melting pad of compound butter on its barely warm surface. Curiously, the side of mashed potatoes is blasting heat. Broccoli stem is hot but its flower cold. Carrots and cauliflower are too crunchy. Canned baby corn is never a good idea.
The duck is tough. The lamb arrives medium-rare as requested, with an array of dreary vegetables and a too-sweet and too-everywhere mint sauce that runs into the hot and cold vegetables. And though its crust is soggier than ideal, the meat itself is fine, and nicely cooked, and this ends up the star of the night.
Lunch is much the same sort of good news-bad news story. An unfortunate scorched flavour permeates the beef stew, but a crab and mushroom bisque is comfortingly respectable. The salmon part of the salmon salad is dry, but the salad part sports a nice raw vegetable slaw of frenched snow peas and julienned peppers in a fruity dressing.
And then a final visit seems to conclude that Wild Wood is wildly all over the map in terms of quality. Surprisingly good squid, a fine spinach salad, and then a tough, dry pork chop and a very pedestrian, banquet-quality “Italian” fish stew of overcooked seafood and salmon and with crunchy and non-Italian wild rice beneath.
Desserts carry on the theme: a pretty good lime and blueberry cheesecake, and a strawberry rhubarb tart that would benefit from more fruit and better quality ice cream but is otherwise OK.
And then an icky meringue with too-sweet lime curd and whipped cream from a can, and a too-sweet crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e that is more pudding than custard.
So I’m not sweet on this place, though I do like the view, and I don’t mind the soups. The rest is pretty hit-and-miss.