French brasserie Centre V settles into Lionshead |

French brasserie Centre V settles into Lionshead

Caramie Schnell
Vail CO, Colorado
AE Centre V PU 1-15-08

Centre V’s secret is in their snails ” the quality of the snails, to be precise.

“We buy the best snail we can buy, which is how we feel about the whole restaurant ” we source the best possible products,” said Tyler Anderson, executive chef of Centre V, the new French brasserie located in Arrabelle at Vail Square.

In the case of Centre V’s escargot, the snails come from Burgundy, France. The chefs bake the snails in what has become the restaurant’s “mother sauce” ” herbs, butter, white wine and garlic, topped with homemade puff pastry.

“It’s all about the quality of the snail. We like to say it’s the cooking, but really it’s the quality. It’s letting God help you cheat at cooking,” Anderson said.

And that’s basically the concept for the ochre-colored restaurant ” that and 140 years of French tradition, said restauranteur Thomas Salamunovich, the owner and chef of Larkspur restaurant in Vail. Salamunovich’s Savory Group designed the concept and menu for the Rock Resorts restaurant. Having spent a few years living in France with his wife, Salamunovich is well-acquainted with traditional French fare.

“We wanted this (restaurant) to be true to a very long standing, great style of restaurant in France ” the brasserie,” Salamunovich said.

“A place where you can stop in and have a great fruite de mar, or a hearty onion soup gratinee. I thought that it was something missing in Vail and would be wonderful here,” he said.

By nature, French cuisine is warm and nourishing, Salamunovich said.

“These are dishes that are so sound in their history we tried to be sincere and respect traditions and honor them and try not to screw them up,” Salamunovich said.

While Arrabelle was still under construction, Salamunovich traveled with a group of people from Rock Resorts to both Chicago and New York to dine at successful French restaurants. The goal was to identify what works for other brasserie operators, said Jeannette Schulze, the general manager of Arrabelle.

“Each time we did that we had more inspiration for what should be on Centre V’s menu, what the design components should be,” she said.

Along with groin-vault ceilings that you find in castles and chateaus in France, Centre V features a large zinc-topped bar, which is often a main feature in a brasserie. A mosaic floor with tiny pieces of different colored tiles creates a pattern on the floor of the restaurant.

“Every brasserie has a substantial clock, too,” Schulze said. “We have our clock just opposite the bar by the main entrance to the room.”

Along with taking notes about design elements, the group was busy tasting food, too, Shulze said.

Most of the brasseries offered a salad Lyonnaise, which is offered at Centre V. One waiter at the restaurant referred to the dish as “breakfast in a salad.” Frisee lettuce dressed with a very light honey mustard vinaigrette is topped with a delicately poached egg and thick hunks of smoked bacon.

In Chicago the group dined on chocolate mousse for four, served in the middle of the table. That inspired Centre V’s chocolate souffle, which is served hot with a cream anglaise sauce and takes a minimum of 30 minutes to make.

“It’s a stunning dessert that people get excited at the beginning of the meal for,” Schulze said.

The group also discovered an onion soup they loved but Anderson’s recipe, which features braised beef shank, won their hearts over, he said. The meat adds a new dimension of flavor to the crock of soup, which is topped with the traditional bubbling, browned cheese.

“It’s a very hearty thing to serve at the foot of the mountains in Colorado,” Anderson said.

Anderson, who most recently worked at the Equinox in Manchester, Vt. (a Rock Resort until it was bought out last year), came on with his team of sous chefs a few months before the restaurant opened. The extra time gave him the “luxury” of finding the best purveyors.

The brown trout in the trout amandine ($26, served with green beans and lemon) comes from a farmer in South Carolina, Anderson said.

“We’re the only account he has ” we’ve bought him out for the next two years,” Anderson said. “It’s an all-organic product, it hasn’t been genetically modified like most farmed trout ” it’s trout in its purest form, I guess you could say.”

The roasted whole baby chicken (“petit pouilet roti,” $30) is flown in from France or Pennsylvania, depending on the season, three times a week. A wave of buttery mashed potatoes and crisp haricots verts with shallots are served alongside the tender poultry.

Oysters, clams, shrimp, crab, mussels, marinated bay scallops and periwinkles ($58 for the medium-size ‘plateaux de fruits de mar,’ which feeds 2-4 people) fill tiered seafood platters and set the restaurant apart from others locally, Anderson said.

“Since we’re not by the ocean we have all of our shellfish drop-shipped every day from either the East Coast or Mexico,” he said.

Shulze agreed that the platters, while traditional in France, are unique to Vail ” “I’m delighted with the quality of our seafood. The fruits de mar are something you share, it adds to the conversation and makes it an interactive dining experience. It’s a very nice way to start a dinner,” she said.

In the end it’s the frites (french fries) that Anderson names as the most traditional offering, even though they “do them Belgian-style.” The potatoes are blanched in 275-degree duck fat ” which “infuses the flavor” ” then refrigerated and fried to order.

“It’s very traditional, but with a slight twist to it.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at or 748-2984.

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