The Peerless Restaurant is known for its exceptional food, an extensive wine list and its elegant, perfectly appointed dining room. Lighting is subdued and a piano plays softly in the background. Servers are attentive and efficient and not at all intrusive. The focus of this restaurant is the food and wine — and here, both are on center stage.

The Peerless serves dinner and also offers a happy hour menu. The seasonal menu and daily specials have a good selection of proteins, including fish, pork, chicken, beef and vegetarian options, each unique with the right touch of summer’s bounty in salads, vegetables and sauces. Surprisingly, burgers have made the Peerless menu, but this is not your everyday beef on a bun — instead it’s grilled ahi tuna, a flaxseed and forbidden rice burger or Kobe beef with butter lettuce. Entrees run from $20-$35 and those unusual burgers, about $15.

My husband and I were in the mood to savor a range of flavors, so we opted for a tasting menu of sorts, choosing from the happy hour menu, which also featured some of the starters and mid-plates offered for dinner service. Small plates run from $3 to $9 each.

To begin, we ordered marinated edamame and a tasty and unusual snack mix of peanuts, puffed wild rice and togarashi with a spicy-sweet glaze — perfect with drinks. A chilled watermelon gazpacho delighted our palate, with a finish of bright tomato and cool cucumber. Then, Kobe beef sliders — juicy and tender with a marvelous grilled flavor, topped with wasabi aioli on a potato bun. The sliders came with a slaw that was fresh and crunchy. Next, two steamed bao buns stuffed with salted and smoked pork, and a slaw of savoy cabbage, watermelon radish and pickled pineapple.

We were sated. Filled. Complete. But without intending to, we’d seen the dessert menu. Back and forth, did we want sweet corn crepes with a queso fresco mousse and green chili honey? Or did we want Peas & Carrots, carrot cake with green pea ice cream and a carrot emulsion? Peas & Carrots, a beautifully plated piece of art won the day. Rounds of dense, sweet, spiced cake were separated with a white chocolate ganache and crowned with threads of candied ginger. The green pea ice cream was sweet and the carrot emulsion delicately flavored. The composition of the plate made this dessert incredibly appealing and its taste fulfilled expectations brilliantly.

The Peerless offers an exceptional menu in a wonderful atmosphere, whether inside at table or outside in the sculpture garden. It also has an outstanding wine list, featuring wines curated from vineyards around the world as well as a quality selection of Southern Oregon’s award-winning vintages. The Peerless has been recognized two years running as an A-List restaurant by the Oregon Wine Board because of its support for Oregon wines.

Plan to visit the Peerless when you have the time to just be there. You won’t feel rushed. Instead, you’ll feel pampered and indulged. Let your visit be for a special day, or let the Peerless make your day a special one. You’ll experience the tastes and scents of fine dining at its best.

The Peerless Restaurant is set in the heart of Ashland’s Railroad District at 265 Fourth St. and is open from 5 to close Tuesdays through Saturdays. Happy hour is from 5 to 6 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to close. Dinner reservations are recommended. See perrlessrestaurant.com or call 541-488-6067.

Maureen Flanagan Battistella is a freelance writer in Ashland, Oregon. She can be reached at mbattistellaor@gmail.com