After running a $36 3-course special all summer long, this restaurant won’t be a secret anymore. Executive chef Ted Schneider is an ambitious guy and he’s ready for a packed dining room. His food is worth one. Schneider looks like he could be the intense poet-type on the silver screen, but his menu paints him as a confident dancer. He flits from simple, authentic offerings a bibb salad, vaguely wilted by a warm bacon dressing and topped with a perfectly poached egg to more manipulated creations, like the King salmon vacuum-sealed in a pouch with olive oil, thyme and shallot, then slowly cooked in a circulating water bath. He’s not afraid of technology, but he certainly doesn’t rely upon it.Better than a wholeGeneral manager and passionate oenophile Jim Lay’s cellar is loaded with half bottles. Champagne, pinots, cabs, crazy blends he is a man who likes to open bottles. Maybe he just likes to bring out more wine glasses (oh, they are sexy, plumping out at the bottom but not so much as to trap the scent of the wine). But there is something seductive about sharing a bottle, and then another and another, with friends. “Half bottles are better,” he says. He’s no snob, either, bouncing from non-vintage Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Champagne to J.K. Carriere pinot noir from the Willamette Valley. Half bottles allow him to pair by the course and draw from his menu full of domestics with occasional stars from Italy and France.Club MedIn keeping with the hotel’s theme, DaVinci’s menu is Mediterranean-driven. “I like the concept of freshness,” Schneider says. The kampachi crudo proves his point. Thin slabs of the raw fish are embellished with lemon, chives and salt. The glancing blow of the occasional peppery radish provides a welcome tang. But now that I’ve had it, there are times when nothing but the pappardelle with veal ragu will do. “It’s as rustic as it gets,” Schneider says. “It’s always fresh, and that’s really the difference between a good pasta dish and a great one.” The eggy pasta is crepe-like in texture. It’s sauced with a homemade ragu that takes roughly 8 hours of simmering, and its warmth is made to last. Oddly enough, it’s not heavy, but is pure comfort. DaVinci is a new restaurant, but Schneider isn’t reinventing the wheel. “We’re about fresh, big flavors, ” he says. “That’s what I’ve always done.” It seems to be working.
DaVinci RestaurantVail Plaza Club, Vail Village970.477.8050vailplazaclub.com