Gaston’s Restaurant Means Trout

Classic resort thrives under new chef

By: Michael Roberts   Photography: Novo Studio

Learn how to recreate this traditional rainbow trout dish from Gaston’s Resort on page 18.

Learn how to recreate this traditional rainbow trout dish from Gaston’s Resort on page 18.

 
 

Is there a dining room in Arkansas more eclectic than that of Gaston’s Resort in Lakeview? Antique bicycles, outboard motors and vintage signs hang from the walls and ceiling, each piece collected by Al Gaston, founder of the resort, and his son, Jim, who turned this scenic resort on the White River into an Arkansas legend. The airy space is lined with tall windows overlooking the White River, an unmatched view that has become part of the Gaston’s mystique. 

These days, Gaston’s thrives under the leadership of third-generation owner Clint Gaston, who at only 28 years old has thrown himself into maintaining his father and grandfather’s commitment to outdoor lovers of all ages and experience levels as well as the locals who call Lakeview home. The restaurant is a vital part of that experience, and with the announcement of new chef Rick Gollinger in March of this year, Clint feels confident that the food coming out of Gaston’s kitchen is just as wonderful as the view. “We wanted to reconnect with our locals, plus give those who drive or fly in to the resort a great place to dine,” says Clint.

Lunch service was just gearing up when photographer Philip Thomas and I arrived at the restaurant, and the staff was busy preparing fresh fish, thick steaks and various sides, all narrated by the sort of friendly banter common to well-run kitchens. Servers and hostesses busied themselves with making sure the white tablecloths were in place, greeting early diners with big smiles and a ready “Hey, y’all!”

When the new chef arrived, it was immediately clear how proud he was of his new home at Gaston’s Restaurant. “I grew up around here,” says Rick. “I left to go to culinary school and work in the cities, but I knew I’d come back. I’ve had my eye on this place for a while.” For Rick, the restaurant is not only a place where people staying at the resort can grab a bite, it’s a special occasion restaurant for locals. 

As Rick set up to prepare us something tasty for lunch, his quick, efficient movements told the tale of his experience in the kitchen. The skills he exhibited would be at home at any fine dining restaurant in Little Rock or Memphis, and yet the smile on his face was proof that there was no place he’d rather be. It’s clear he’s out to transform Gaston’s Restaurant into a destination all on its own, the sort of place people will leave the main highway and seek out for superior food and service. “We’ve even had people fly up from Little Rock for brunch,” Rick says, referring to the resort’s recently revamped 3,200-foot airstrip.

Chef Rick Gollinger uses his considerable skills to make sure Gaston’s Restaurant appeals to resort guests and locals alike (left). The dining room at Gaston’s is filled with antique bicycles, outboard motors and other ephemera, framing a beautiful view of the White River (right).

Because Gaston’s is known as a premier destination for trout fishing, we’ve asked Rick to share the resort’s recipe for the restaurant’s signature Trout Amandine, a classic dish that pairs a light, flaky rainbow trout fillet with a bright sauce of lemon, butter and almonds. It’s the sort of dish that’s quick and easy to prepare, yet elegant to serve. And while it may be a snap to recreate a taste of Gaston’s, there’s nothing like getting a seat at the table and a hook in the water to experience the place for yourself.

From left to right: Almonds, butter and lemon juice make this trout amandine delicious. The chef sears the trout to medium, then serves with a hot, fresh amandine sauce.

Rainbow Trout Amandine (serves 4)

Ingredients:
4 rainbow trout fillets
Salt and pepper
2 cups flour
4 tablespoons butter, divided use
1/4 cup white wine
6 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:
Sprinkle trout fillets with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour until both sides are well coated; shake off excess flour. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet on medium-high heat, then place fillets in the pan skin side up. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove fish from pan and keep warm. In the same pan, melt the remaining butter. Add the white wine, almonds and lemon juice and sautÈ until heated through. Spoon sauce and almonds over the trout and serve.