Dive Fish House in Edwards a seafood-lover’s haven | VailDaily.com

Dive Fish House in Edwards a seafood-lover’s haven

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com

EDWARDS — Edwards' newest restaurant is not your typical dive, as the name implies.

No gritty bar counters, cave-like lighting or questionable finger food options — instead, the fish house, formerly dish restaurant, is a slick new addition to the mid-valley culinary scene that pays homage to seafood and all things ocean. Dive Fish House (www.divefishhouse.com) is still owned by dish owners Pollyanna Forster and Chris Irving, and is still under the chefdom of Executive Chef Veronica Morales but with a new look and menu.

"We feel so blessed," said Forster. "We had eight amazing years (with dish). However, I always want to push the envelope and do something different. This is different and interesting, and I don't think too many other people are doing this up here."

East Coast meets island

The menu and feel of dive, however, are completely new. The interior got a complete makeover with marine colors and whimsical blown-glass chandeliers in green, blue and white for an "under-the-sea" look.

Former dish diners can still expect an upscale vibe, similar prices and a small-plates format in which you can try a variety of dishes and share with the table. Think sushi den meets northeastern coastal comfort food meets upscale foodie haven.

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In many ways, Dive goes back to Forster and Irving's roots. She grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii, and he hails from Cape Cod. Dive, just like their relationship and culinary partnership, meets almost smack in the middle.

"We always said our relationship met in Colorado. (Dive) is a little bit of Chris, a little bit of me," Forster said.

That means diners will find Irving family recipes such as New England clam chowder, hefty lobster rolls made with Duke's mayonnaise and island food like poke beet salad — a take on the Hawaiian favorite of marinated raw fish.

Deep ocean starters

One of Dive's specialties is its unique raw oyster menu.

Think that if you've tasted one oyster, you've tasted them all? Dive will prove you wrong with six oysters on menu at any given time. You can get a sampler and try them all, and the variety will surprise your taste buds. Sous chef Jonathan O'Leary compares the varied tastes to wine, where the location and terrain of the product create nuanced differences.

Executive Chef Morales admitted that she was skeptical of oysters when they were designing the menu, but since then she's become a convert.

"I didn't like oysters before, but I've fallen in love with them a few months ago — all the mineral and oily flavors. I feel like I'm uncovering all the different new oyster flavors."

O'Leary also has created a classic with his seafood crudo. These raw dishes feature fresh cuts of sashimi on a bed of seasonal vegetables. You'll be shocked at how much the crumbled cauliflower tastes like couscous and how decadent the acorn and butternut squash puree feels. Pair a crudo plate with a Muse sparkling cava from Spain, part of Forster's own wine label. The light taste and bubbles won't overpower the fish, instead complementing the delicate flavors.

Another favorite, not just at our table, was the uni toast. This might be one of the most approachable versions of uni (sea urchin) that you'll ever find. Some find the umami flavor of the gooey urchin roe off-putting, but Dive's version pairs the uni with the smooth taste of avocado and the crunch of toast.

"I love this one because it's as good as it sounds," said Forster, adding that it has been one of the restaurant's most popular dishes. "It's rich, creamy and crunchy."

The freshest fish

Anyone who likes crab will appreciate the crab Louie salad, served with generous lumps of crab, lettuce, avocado and a soft-boiled egg. From there, explore the fresh options on the menu, including more savory options like the salt-crusted Vail steak and the squid-ink pasta.

Ask your server to help you pair your dish with a fitting wine or a sherry, which Forster says has become her new favorite kind of pairing.

The real focus of dive is giving diners a fresh take on the freshest fish, keeping food trends in mind. All the restaurant's ingredients are from sustainable and sometimes Colorado companies.

Sous chef O'Leary learned his way around seafood working at McCormick and Schmick's seafood and steak houses and at the Palace Arms in the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, and he says the most exciting part about Dive is that diners can access ocean tastes in the mountains.

"We'll be focusing on getting what we can at its freshest point. Where else can you get truly fresh fish? I think that's huge and it's something people want," O'Leary said.

Morales says the change in focus has been fun, with O'Leary's classical training and Asian influence and her love of fish.

"There's still meat and chicken for anyone who doesn't eat fish, don't you worry," she said. "The thing about good fish — it's hard to go wrong with it."

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

If you go …

What: Dive Fish House.

Where: 55 Edwards Village Boulevard, no. 230, Edwards.

Hours: Monday through Saturday 5 to 10 p.m. Dive bar hour with $1.50 oysters, $2 beers and $5 glasses of wine is from 5 to 6 p.m. daily. Also open Sundays Dec. 14, 21 and 28 and Jan. 4.

Reservations: Recommended.

More information: http://www.divefishhouse.com or 970-926-3433.

Must try:

Grapefruit mojito, $8 — Citrus meets minty goodness. You’ll feel like you’re on the beach.

Hamachi crudo, $14 — Delicate raw fish served with cauliflower couscous and squash puree.

Uni toast, $14 — Uni, the “foie gras of the sea,” pairs nicely with crunchy bread and avocado.

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