Went last night to Avalon w/ my girlfriend and had the following thoughts.
-Hardly anyone there. Which surprised me on a friday, but having been open for a number of years I guess Avalon is no longer a difficult reservation.
Ordered the chefs tasting menu (150pp, w/ wines).
1.The wine accompanying the first course is actually a sake. Our waiter arrives at our table just after we've ordered with two glasses of Nicolas Feuillat champagne saying that we would probably like an aperatif before having sake. Nice little complimentary (not really, but it feels that way) touch.
2. Amuse: White Gazpacho w/ muscadet grapes. Very nice, a little weird. I thought gazpacho was usually tomato based, this seemed more like a vichysoise. The soup was deliciously smooth and creamy with a nice bit of acidity from the grapes.
3. First Course: John Dory Carpaccio w/ pine nut oil and preserved limes. Terrific. The fish is beautifully fresh and has a slightly chewy texture. Providing just a tiny bit of resistence before letting you bite through it. The strongest flavor is of the pine nut oil and the limes give a very neat twist.
4. Second course: Squash blossoms filled with dungeness crab meat. Tasty, but doesn't really work. It's actually more like a squash fritter. There's a thin deep-fried coating on the squash and there is corn mixed in with the crab meat, giving the whole thing a bit of a southern feel. The crab meat doesn't have much flavour and the whole dish sinks under the weight of a the fried coating. It tasted sort of like a fancy pogo.
5. Third Course: twice cooked duck w/ foie gras in an oxtail broth. Delicious. Three big pieces of thigh meat ( I can't remember what the two cooking methods were) with a juicy slab of foie gras sitting in the middle. The duck was a pekin duck(sp?) (not the preparation "peking duck" but a particular variety of duck. I am told that this is an older breed popular before fancier varieties became the norm. Anyways, the distinguishing characteristic is that it has less fat than a muscovy duck and so the skin is easier to make crispy.)
6. Cheese: we had the choice of selecting our own off of an extensive menu or putting ourselves in the hands of the chef. We decided to choose and selected a chevre noir (soft goat's cheese from Quebec that is rolled in ash), a beaufort (a french cheese that is a lot like Swiss Gruyere, a Fourme D'ambert (not sure on the spelling) (a blue veined french cheese, just a bit creamier than a stilton) and a Tete de Moine (Swiss cheese from Bern that was softer and more mild in flavour than a Gruyere). These were all fantastic and served with a nice fruit and nut bread and some jelly (pear I think) and some dried figs.
7.Dessert # 1: fresh berries with caramel licorice sauce. The berries were deliciously ripe and the sauce started off caramel and ended licorice, I loved it. My girlfriend, not a black licorice fan,however, did not.
8. Dessert #2: Apricot tarte tatin w/ green tea ice cream. A terrific pastry. The fruit was caramalized on top and yet still juicy and fresh tasting in the center. This ice cream was slightly superior to your fast food sushi norm, but not anything mind blowing.
Overall: An excellant meal but not perfect. Avalon is a serious modern french restaurant. The service was great without being fawning or obtrusive. The staff were especially knowledgeable about Chris Macdonald's dishes which were all very complex. He is definately an extremely talented chef who isn't afraid to experiment. Some of the combinations seemed a little silly and having the lengthy preparations read to us reminded me a little of the opening scene from American Psycho. (Which is, if you've never seen it, in large part a satire of restaurant culture in North American cities.)However I'm not going to continue a complaint on this train of thought because I may very well just not have a suitably sophisticated palate for this kind of cuisine. It's just a dangerous discussion to launch into. Interesting and excellent food.