We eagerly looked forward to our first meal at Thomas Salamunovich's new Restaurant Avondale in the new Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. We were not disappointed. As a matter of fact, we were charmed.
Complimentary front-door valet parking is a good start. The lobby of the hotel is beautifully simple and the walk to the restaurant is reminiscent of the stroll to Dean Fearing's new place in Dallas inside the Ritz Carlton. (As a matter of fact, it is also similar to the entry to Centre V at Arrabelle in Vail, but that's a whole other story!) At any rate, the restaurant itself continues the simple theme with a lovely and lively bar and a relaxing, low-key dining room. It does remind one somewhat of Salamunovich's original spot -- Larkspur in Vail.
The menu, although having some hints of Larkspur, is very different, not only from the very size of the menu but also from the price point. Unlike Larkspur, which is definitely in the "fine dining" category, Avondale takes a step down and attempts to be more casual -- witness the waitstaff dressed in jeans and aprons. The menu offers five "for the table" appetizers, including Market Vegetables with Red Pepper Hummus, Green Goddess and Pita Chips, PEI Mussels "a la Plancha" with Squid and Lemon Butter, and House Made Sausages with Black Walnut Mustard. The menu continues with five Cured Meats and Cheeses offerings, seven Soups & Salads, five Starters, seven Pizza and Pastas, three Seafood offerings, two Poultry dishes, three Meats and a host of Vegetables & Grains.
Prices are refreshingly modest for the Vail area. Starters top out at $13 for 6 West Coast Oysters with Cucumber-Champagne Mignonette. Pizzas and Pastas range from $13 for Late Summer Margherita Pizza to $21 for Fettuccine, Puttanesca, Shellfish and Tuscan Beans. Main courses run from Pacific Coast Skate for $19 to Grilled Scallops and Shrimps with Romesco Potatoes and Melted Leeks for $25. Roasted Rosie Chicken for 2 with Onion Rings and Gypsum Vegetables is $39.
We started with a salad of Alaskan King Crab with Grilled Avocado and Sun Gold Tomatoes ($12) and California Sardines with Jamon Serrano, Olive Crumble and Marcona Almonds (also $12). The sardines were excellent -- the crab salad was fabulous. Great presentation and wonderful flavors. Our entrees were an off-menu seafood dish of Monkfish with Chick Peas, Fennel Slaw and Garlic Aioli ($23) and Pork English Cut Spare Ribs with Corn Spoon Bread Pudding and GreenTtomato Vinaigrette ($19). The fish was very good but the spare ribs were really special. Our waiter told us they are braised for 24 hours. The way they fell from the bone makes me believe it. The flavor was just incredible.
We did not have dessert because we ended the meal with a Farmstead Cheeseboard with House Preserves and Solar Dried Tree Fruit (aka dried apricots). Three cheeses -- Humboldt Fog, marinated chevre and one other whose name I can't remember -- served with housemade saltines that were wonderful. It was a great ending.
Service was a little clumsy to start, but after a couple of blunders (one person not knowing what another was doing) it smoothed out and was fine. Timing was good and unrushed but not too slow. Several management-types, including Jelena, the GM, stopped by the table to ask how things were. All waitstaff were friendly and accomodating.
Okay, so as you can tell, I like this place. I was afraid it would compete with Larkspur, but it is completely different. I won't even try to compare the two. This place seems to me to fit into a niche that has no competition in the area.