5 Vail Valley restaurants earn recommendations in coveted Michelin Guide

At this week's Michelin Guide ceremony, five Vail-area establishments were added to the coveted guide's recommended restaurants.
Kimberly Nicoletti/Special to the Daily
Mirabelle, Avon Situated just past the entrance to the Beaver Creek Resort, in a picturesque turn-of-the-century ranch house (built by homesteaders in 1898), this local staple is the residence of longtime Chef Daniel Joly and his family, which helps to explain its homey, inviting charm. Chef Joly brings his European training to bear on comforting classics like lobster bisque, as well as indulgences like seared foie gras with caramelized peaches and Speculoos crumble; an order of frites with Dijon-spiked mayonnaise, a nod to his Belgian roots, is also a must. Portions are generous, but saving room for dessert should be considered non-negotiable, considering such offerings as a delicate, panna cotta-like roasted apricot posset with hazelnut crumble and rosemary tuile. Osaki’s, Vail Nestled within the storybook town of Vail, Osaki's is a tiny spot where just a handful of counter seats and a sprinkling of tables await diners. It's a classic sushi-ya in every way with a no-frills look but a laser-focus on the fish. After taking a seat, diners consult a whiteboard for the selections, enjoyed either as nigiri or sashimi. The quality shines through and isn't gussied up with superfluous sauces or flourishes. Indeed, their purist mentality is best seen in the selection, where offerings such as hagatsuo, not often found outside of very small regions in Japan, make an appearance. Japanese snow crab is sweet and meaty; akamutsu is silky; and buttery ankimo proves why it's given the nickname, "foie gras of the sea." Splendido at The Chateau, Avon You might think the name lays things on a bit thick, but the setting is as grand and as comfortable as could be hoped for, and the warm, attentive service is sure to make you feel like royalty. Looking beyond the glamorous environs, you'll find a thoughtful menu overseen by longtime chef Brian Ackerman, which straddles the line between creative and classic, seen in a pomegranate-marinated rack of Colorado lamb. Dover sole, pan-seared before being adroitly filleted tableside and served with brown butter beurre blanc, is a menu staple for good reason. End with an airy soufflé, or opt for something a bit more nostalgic, like a chocolate and peanut butter pave. Sweet Basil, Vail Opened in 1977, this legendary local establishment has a long and storied history, and it remains as popular now as ever, whether for lunch, après-ski drinks at the bar or dinner. The menu is eclectic, freely borrowing and blending flavors from across the globe, as in tempura-fried mahi mahi tacos with peanut salsa macha, bone marrow pho with scallop, or a miso black garlic-glazed halibut with fondant potatoes. Desserts are whimsical, but seriously good, for example the indulgently named “if you like piña coladas,” which features caramelized pineapple compote, passion fruit pâte de fruit and a crunchy coconut crumble. Carefully mixed cocktails and a compelling wine list round out the abundant appeal of this approachable yet elevated favorite. Wyld, Avon Nestled inside The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, this sophisticated restaurant is far from wild. Instead, it's the very picture of rustic refinement right down to the large windows framing postcard-perfect views of Beaver Creek. Settle in to this laid-back luxe spot and share stories of the day's alpine adventures over likeable dishes like salsa macha atop a crisp tostada with avocado aioli and slices of albacore. Earthy red and yellow beets rest over a creamy, tart tzatziki sprinkled with toasted pumpernickel breadcrumbs in a refreshing first course. Heartier entrees, like chicken under a brick with roasted carrots, parsnips and celery root puree, are especially satisfying after epic days filled with skiing or hiking.

Colorado’s culinary scene has officially joined the ranks of fine dining in New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., and the states of California and Florida by garnering a place in the worldwide Michelin Guide. Tuesday night, at the Mission Ballroom in Denver, Michelin announced that five Vail Valley establishments earned a coveted spot in the Michelin Guide’s Recommended restaurants: Mirabelle, Osaki’s, Splendido at The Chateau, Sweet Basil and Wyld.

Overall, Colorado received 30 Michelin Recommendations. In addition to Vail Valley’s five, two Aspen restaurants, five Boulder establishments and 17 Denver restaurants earned recommendations. This is the first year Michelin has recognized Colorado.

“These prestigious awards signify more than just recognition for our restaurants; they symbolize a significant elevation of Colorado’s status on the global culinary map and the state’s steadfast dedication to sustainability,” said Tim Wolfe, director of the Colorado Tourism Office. “With this momentous event, we’re set to attract travelers and food lovers from around the world, bolstering our economy and cultural influence.” 

Brian Ackerman, owner and executive chef at Splendido at The Chateau in Avon, recalls just how big of a deal the Michelin Guide was in culinary school; some of his friends even collected the books.

“It’s an amazing honor, and the credibility is great. They continually check out the restaurants because they have a reputation to uphold. This is the real deal, which is why it’s so secretive. You wouldn’t know when (inspectors) are in your restaurant judging you,” he said, adding that it’s relatively easy to prepare an excellent meal for a special diner or two when you know they’re rating you, but for one out of 100,000 or more of your dishes to stand out and gain a recommendation proves consistency in excellence.

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“The fact we had no prior knowledge of their visit makes it even more special,” said Wyld’s executive chef Jasper Schneider. “This recognition reinforces the exceptional culinary experiences that can thrive even in remote destinations.”

Chefs perceive the recommendation as a testament to all of the dedicated efforts the teams put in, often missing holidays and working late nights to make guests’ experiences spectacular.

“This recognition is a source of immense pride for both myself and the entire team,” Schneider said, adding: “Regardless of the recognition, we always strive to offer guests the finest ingredients and a distinctive dining experience in our mid-mountain location. Currently, our menu at Wyld features an impressive 70% of locally-sourced produce, a testament to our commitment to showcasing the flavors of the region throughout the entire resort.”

Ackerman and Mirabelle owner and executive chef Daniel Joly view the recommendation as a motivation to continue to improve and strive for a Michelin star rating. Only five Colorado restaurants earned a one-star rating: Bosq in Aspen, Beckon, Brutø and The Wolf’s Tailor in Denver and Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder.

Head Chef Daniel Joly plates a dish in the Mirabelle kitchen.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

“Personally, to me, it motivates us to improve and do better,” Joly said. “Also, I think the Vail Valley and mountain towns can only go up in rating in the Micheline guide, and that makes it exciting next year. We must stay true and cater to our clientele who support our restaurant daily. They are the real award — they’ve kept us in business for the past 33 years at Mirabelle. My wife and I always ask, ‘What we can do to improve this?'”

But, regardless, as Joly points out: “It’s a good day when Michelin says something nice about you, no question. It’s a positive experience for all — it’s always nice to be recognized by the Michelin guide and be on a global level.” Like others, he views it as “a new chapter in restaurant qualification in our state, and we must learn and adapt and stay true to our mission in the community.”

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Michelin originally launched its guide to encourage more motorists to drive to destination restaurants. In 2017, the guide added the Recommended Restaurants category. Michelin chose Colorado as the sixth location in the United States to include, due to its “rich, culinary community rooted in established, notable chefs, along with innovative upstarts,” as well as its technique and craft, according to a press release.

“Our famously anonymous inspectors were wowed by these restaurants’ high-quality, local ingredients, sourced seasonally and sustainably. It’s a very exciting time for the culinary community here, and we feel the momentum growing,” said Gwendal Poullennec, the international director of the Michelin guides.

The Colorado Tourism Office described Michelin’s recognition as celebrating the “diversity, quality and exceptional talent that define the state’s vibrant culinary landscape,” according to its press release.

“Michelin is doing a great job of putting Colorado dining on the map and showcasing exceptional mountain dining experiences,” Schneider said. “We’ve been fortunate to welcome guests from all over the world, including from cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Argentina and so many more who are expecting an exciting and upscale dining experience.”

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