'Restaurant: Impossible' team worked magic on Maple Tree

Ever wonder if those restaurant-rescue shows actually ... well, rescue the restaurants? After a recent visit to The Maple Tree, I'm a believer.

The Maple Tree was visited last month by cast and crew of the Food Network's "Restaurant: Impossible," the mission of which is to rescue restaurants that are about to breathe their last. The restaurant's management is contractually forbidden from talking to the press or allowing any photos until after the broadcast of the show, which is scheduled for Sept. 26. But we can give you a sneak peek.

First, the decor. The decor of The Maple Tree formerly was an attempt at charming, but on my visit to the restaurant last November, I thought it was looking a little tired. And I had issues with some of the food - particularly the pancakes and the apple fritter, which both had apparently been cooked at too high a temperature and ended up doughy and undercooked inside.

What a difference a rescue makes.

The interior, for starters, is much more attractive, sleekly painted and with an abundance of dark wood accents, including panels on the walls and the tables themselves, and large, colorful canvases - some bearing the restaurant's name, all with a wholesome-food theme. There also are topiaries on the wall that separates the kitchen from the dining room.

And then there's the food itself. I purposely got pancakes again, again with the corned-beef-hash platter ($8.99). And they were so, so much better - thinner and silken, more in the vein of flannel cakes, and with the subtle but easily identifiable tang of buttermilk. The fritter, which came from the kitchen late (but we prefer that to improperly cooked) was crusty on the exterior, fluffy inside, with lots of chunks of apple.

The hash I'd liked the last time, and it hasn't been changed. It's different from most of the housemade hashes served across the valley in that it's more finely cut, then grilled until crispy. The interplay of crispy crust and moist interior and the pronounced corned-beef flavor - undiluted by potatoes or anything else - was very appealing.

The cinnamon roll French toast ($8.99) did have the flavor of fresh cinnamon rolls hot from the airport counter, but the icing swirled over it and syrup served on the side didn't camouflage one minor flaw, and that's that it was just a bit dry throughout. That's easily remedied, though, perhaps by thinner slicing or longer soaking.

Service throughout was fine, with coffee refilled frequently, but awkward wording on the menu confused us and, we think, our server. The corned-beef hash, it said, comes "with two eggs, potatoes, and toast, apple fritter or fried bread, or two buttermilk pancakes," which sounded like it came with potatoes and a choice of fritter, bread or pancakes. Actually, it's potatoes or pancakes, plus the fritter or toast. I think. At any rate, they need to work on the wording of that.

Again, though, that's a minor flaw. "Restaurant Impossible" has made me a believer.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or hrinella@reviewjournal.com.