The front door of Morsey’s Farmhouse leads directly to a brightly lit case filled with macarons, chocolate truffles and pastries. Kal and Yulia Morsey, the owners, are smart to draw your attention to all these sweets. Along with the gelato bar, dessert is the star player here.

The Morseys have combined the informal drop-in hours of a European cafe (meal services shift from breakfast to lunch to dinner) with more formal menus. Some familiar plates arrive at the table that are easily recognizable as California cuisine. And then other heavier meat entrées follow that are throwbacks to American steakhouses. From dish to dish, the kitchen is curating some mixed culinary messages and presenting them as a unified whole to the diners.

Natural light filters in cheerfully through windows at the front and back entrances. The whitewashed walls, furniture and flower prints have been chosen for their generic, utilitarian qualities, which makes the inside feel family-friendly rather than intimate. When I attended, everyone seemed comfortable with kids and didn’t rush in to stop a child from jumping up and down repeatedly on an upholstered bench.

The Morseys own a 50-acre farm—home to around 400 water buffalo—about 120 miles northeast of Los Altos in Wilton. Several items on the menu, including a buffalo burger and the gelato, contain products made from those animals. The decor purposefully erases any sense of that rusticity. The only rural reference stands inside the logo, which features a horned buffalo with its tail swishing in the air.

The starters, like the main plates, all have at least one additional and unnecessary ingredient or sauce muddling instead of enhancing the flavors of a dish. A prime example is the wild mushroom tart ($13). Forest mushrooms filled up a delicate cone of perfectly cooked puff pastry. But the truffle béchamel (not the chocolate kind) competed with a roasted peach gastrique. Neither sauce was a standout on its own, but together the truffle funk clashed with the sweetness of the peaches. The roasted-beet salad ($12), proportionally speaking, was uncommonly generous and included a buffalo ricotta … and mache and candied spiced walnuts and a blood orange vinaigrette. Like the mushrooms, the beets could have stood on their own with salt and pepper and some fresh citrus. The chef here isn’t in favor of restraint.

A New Zealand crispy-skinned salmon filet ($28) sat on a mound of puréed parsnip that was cut with a parsley pesto and crowned with bright orange yam chips. The purée wasn’t exactly gluey, but it also wasn’t a success, in terms of flavor, or in its consistency. Nor did the dish need chips, pesto or the grilled stone fruit. Make a perfect mashed or even baked potato, squeeze some lemon on top of the fish, season both, and we’d have been good to go.

Take the wild mushroom ravioli ($24). The pasta came swimming in a dense pool of porcini buffalo cream sauce that quickly began to coagulate. Caramelized shallots and truffle (again!) couldn’t save the mushroom flavor from drowning. It may not have been the best idea to have also started with Morsey’s Farm burrata ($16). The cheese itself was pure and “buttery,” as the Italian name indicates. But after pairing it with a balsamic reduction and a tomato jam and olive oil and basil, the palate was already longing for refreshment. It was not to be found in the purées and sauces that followed. But then came the gelato.

Both apricot and mango were the purest of flavors (single $3.75, extra scoop $2.75). The chocolate was, as it is known to be, chocolatey. The coffee might have been suffering from freezer burn—it was icy and granular. The water buffalo milk, though often discernible in soft serve ice creams, didn’t register the same way in this gelato. For that hint of buffalo-ness, try a slice of triple chocolate cheesecake ($6). It’s much creamier than a New York version, and tangier too.

Morsey’s Farmhouse is ideal for morning pastries and fresh breads, or an ice cream on a hot afternoon. With summer temperatures arriving soon, it’s hard to imagine that substantial dishes like filet mignon au poivre, veal schnitzel or New York strip will capture the attention of future diners. The meals aren’t bad. They’re just not memorable. Not in the way that the singular clean flavor of an apricot infused one perfect scoop.


Morsey’s Farmhouse

134 Main St., Los Altos