Saddle Peak Lodge
 
 

A carnivore’s delight nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains

By Joshua Lurie

Antlers serve as door handles, hooves double as lamp bases, and taxidermied moose and musk ox heads line walls. Despite the sometimes rugged décor, owner Ann Graham Ehringer has made sure the former hunting lodge, brothel, and roadhouse has remained a welcoming, consistently ambitious dining experience.

In a sprawling Santa Monica Mountain space that also features an inviting patio, former chef Adam Horton runs front of house while Chef Christopher Kufek helms the kitchen. Kufek sticks to meaty Saddle Peak traditions and follows the seasons. To get to taste the wide sampling of what he’s up to right now, check out the rotating seven-course tasting ($85) with an optional wine pairings ($55), though you can hardly go wrong with the variety of unique plates available a la carte.

A seasonal amuse bouche might consist of carrot ginger soup with micro-cilantro, while a warm pretzel roll comes with whipped butter and sea salt. The herbaceous wild game meatballs are a fine way to start your meal in earnest, involving a mix of wild boar, venison, and beef, all ground in-house and served with melted Gioia mozzarella, zesty garlic marinara, and basil chiffonade.

Carrying on to Saddle Peak Lodge’s grilled and pan roasted entrées, most of which come with a choice of sauce and side, there is the Taylor Preston Farms lamb rack from New Zealand. Juicy, well-seasoned, and served as a trio, is comes with tangy tzatziki—a winning foil to the rosy, slightly gamy meat. Saddle Peak is one of the only restaurants you’ll likely come across offering elk and antelope; the emu flatiron steak from Tennessee’s Amaroo Farms is another uncommon find, boasting a lean, burgundy hue and sporting a nice sear. The chimichurri makes a good fit.

Hearty sides include crisp-sheathed portabello mushroom fries served with ketchup and sherry thyme aïoli. Gooey four-cheese mac and cheese blends Parmesan, Gruyere, Cheddar, and Jack, arriving with a crispy top. For dessert, a comforting Valrhona chocolate brownie with Bourbon barrel ice cream and chocolate flourishes sounds just about perfect. Saddle Peak also brews Intelligentsia coffee—order a cup. After all, with whipping winds, Malibu Canyon can get chilly.

hours

Mon–Fri 5 PM–9 PM; Sat 5 PM–10 PM; Sun 10:30 AM–2 PM, 5 PM–9 PM

price range

$34 (Idaho rainbow trout) to $54 (wild game trio)
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