Da Vinci restaurant in Vail has an evolving menu | VailDaily.com

Da Vinci restaurant in Vail has an evolving menu

Sarah MausolfVail CO, Colorado
AE Da Vinci 01 TS 12-30-07

VAIL, Colorado On the night Da Vincio pened, the menu featured a savory little entree called the saddle of venison. It arrived still pinkish in the center, tender and encircled by chestnuts.A mere day later, the saddle vanished from the menu.In its place, a venison rack appeared. The chefs received a fresher cut of meat and made the swap.Such is the rather Darwinian pace of evolution at Da Vinci, the new restaurant in the Vail Plaza Hotel and Club. Dishes go extinct on a regular basis, replaced by something fresher, something more in line with the chefs moods.A lot of people enslave themselves to their printed menu because they want certain things available, Da Vincis chef de cuisine Chris MacGillivray said. Their guests demand certain things all the time, like signature dishes and whatnot. Were not doing signature dishes. Were changing it (the menu), inspired by what we have every day and what we feel like cooking and what the cooks feel like cooking.The menu withstands almost daily edits. When a shipment of sweet, fatty yellowtail tuna arrived recently, the chefs introduced a sashimi-style dish with lemon-infused olive oil, sending a fluke appetizer into retirement.Bone-in rib-eye steaks also make sporadic appearances. They guest star as $50 entrees, paired at times with a confit fingerling potato, wild mushrooms, sea salt and grilled lemon. Chefs say they occasionally summon the steaks from an aging closet in Denver.This approach is very different from the American diner, where the menu is as thick as the Odyssey and just as permanent.The big thing is: Were not trying to be all things to all people, MacGillivray said. Were doing the food that we want to do, and hopefully that will speak for itself and keep people coming back.

Executive Chef Ted Schneider signed up for management classes at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, but soon discovered another calling.I was actually in college, going to school for a management degree and realized I was having a lot more fun staying home and cooking meals for my roommates than actually pursuing my education so I quit school and started cooking, he said.No longer content to make chicken dumplings and vegetable curry for his roommates, Schneider soon found himself cooking gourmet meals at Beaver Creeks Grouse Mountain Grill, where he served as a chef for more than a decade. Though his training focused on the American style, Schneider introduced Mediterranean touches into the food at Da Vinci.The way Europeans flock to freshness, venturing out to the market, butcher and cheese shop every day instead of stockpiling food from the supermarket appealed to him.The result is a menu that improves on ingredients without smothering them, Schneider said. The roasted pigeon ($39) is soaked in buttermilk and served with a red onion confit and foie gras crostini. The prime beef shortrib ($35), braised to coax out the flavor, comes with marrow cradled in a bone. This is food that courts the adventurous diner.Were really reaching for the dining crowd, people who are somewhat educated about food and are looking for something a little different from your everyday chicken breast or steak, which well offer a steak every once in a while, but were looking for adventurous diners who are looking to have a good time, expand their palate and see something interesting and new and hopefully they walk away blown away, MacGillivray said.

A customer feels like royalty in the dining room, thanks to a trio of wineglasses resting at each place setting, white tablecloths and sweeping windows that offer a glimpse of the snowfall.The color scheme is regal, too: maroon and gold patterns lace the carpet and the plates.Adding to the palace feel are the many attendants who swing by to refill glasses, take orders and suggest wines. It is French-style service; each night, four servers are on hand to take orders, four more deliver food to the tables and a sommelier swings by for wine advice all for an intimate dining room that seats 68.Since the restaurant opened Dec. 21, a curious group has gathered in the dining room each night, filling it to three-quarters capacity. Perhaps the biggest challenge Da Vinci faces is its lack of visibility. A diner must venture to the back of the hotel and scale a staircase to find it.Being on the back side of a hotel and not necessarily, like, out on the street level or anything it makes it a little difficult so far, MacGillivray said. Eventually I think if we get enough word of mouth and people start spreading the word to their friends, they come in (and) have a great dinner, people will find us.High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

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