Room with a Vue |

Room with a Vue

Bret Hartman Executive chef Pascal Coudouy is a hands-on chef who enjoys being on the line. After cooking at busy New York restaurants, mountain living is right up his alley.

If God lives in the details, his favorite restaurant is Vue in the Beaver Creek Park Hyatt.

Vue is what soft, elegant sophistication looks like. True sophistication is about being comfortable, and making others feel comfortable. Sophistication is not stiff or overreaching ” it’s gracious.

When in Vue, you’re on vacation, either for the night or the week, and they don’t forget that. You’re comfortable in shirtsleeves or as a member of the Armani Army.

The location is spectacular, high above Beaver Creek’s central courtyard, overlooking the ice rink. You find yourself gazing at them as the evening begins to unwind, along with your nerves, and you begin to understand that while it’s attention to details that drives success, it’s Vue’s staff that has all the details covered.

Let David Simon or your server handle the details. That’s their job, and they’re so gifted that Vue has been named one of the Top 50 restaurants in the country by food critics with the Restaurant Association of America. This is their second year, and they’re already getting rave reviews.

If sophisticated atmosphere, spectacular service and phenomenal food are not enough to convince you, consider this: cellular phones don’t work very well there. This, Mr. Executroid, is a good thing. That means you can sit back and relax, no one can bother you ” just another atmosphere attribute.

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It’s a tragedy for a creative mind to become bored, and Executive Chef Pascal Coudouy won’t allow it. Right now, Chef Pascal has a staff of about 55 cooks with him. He could use five more, but good help is hard to find. Every week he changes his menu, and every Wednesday he gathers some trusted members of his staff to sample everything and decide on the proper wine to pair with it. They’re not like Broncos and Raiders fans beating each other black and blue, but the discussions get pretty enthusiastic.

The sterling silver-dome plate covers create a fascinating and exciting sense of anticipation as they’re placed before you, enhancing the presentation. But their true beauty is that they retain the smells until they’re lifted, along with your spirits, to complete the visual and olfactory sensory experience.

Like Chef Coudouy himself, the menu is inspiring and confident, not pushy or overbearing. He was trained in Paris and worked in New York City for 14 years, becoming one of the city’s youngest executive chefs. He soon owned his own Manhattan restaurant, and quickly skyrocketed to become one of the top five chefs and restaurants in New York City.

The secret to success is no secret, it’s hard work and creativity. Coudouy brought that philosophy to Beaver Creek’s Park Hyatt.

Staff success

The staff knows what wine should accompany what food, and will steer you in the right direction. They’re knowledgeable, never arrogant.

David suggested a Napa wine, Caymus Conundrum 2001, to accompany the lobster bisque. The wine is aptly named; it’s a combination of a dry chardonnay with a sweeter finish.

With the croustillant of foie gras with lemon confit, figs and cumin chutney, David suggested a Napa Far Niente “Dolce” 1998 dessert wine; a perfect combination.

Coudouy buys only Angus beef from about 70 specially selected farmers, and no bovine ever supported a more worthy cause. The red pepper-crusted filet of beef with red wine and shallot confit sauce comes with German butterball potatoes and bell peppers. It carries with it a flavor that does not boast, but gently convinces. It’s delicate, and the 1999 French Chateau Fontvillac, Grand Cru from St. Emilion that David brought was the exact compliment.

Coudouy’s Dover sole is an energized classic, served on a delicate potato cake and asparagus, and accented with a Meyer lemon and basil sauce. The 2000 Napa Grgich Hills fume blanc completed the ensemble.

The gingerbread-crusted Colorado rack of lamb is one of those glorious cases of experimentation gone right. Chef Coudouy’s new and exciting presentation combines it with a diminutive piece of gingerbread, a combination of flavors that should be exclusive, but instead embrace one another. Combine it with the 1999 Chilean cabernet David suggested and it achieves detente, living on your palate happily ever after.

To go with dessert, David suggested a unique espresso that sported a shot of grappa. Take his suggestion. It’s a perfect match for the Mille-Feuille of Orange and creme brulee with orange blossom and blood orange sauce, so uniquely entrancing that it deserves a different name. It also deserves your undivided attention when it comes time to make that dessert decision.

It’s an exercise in trust to order that creme brulee and for your partner to order the Grand Mariner Souffle and chocolate ice cream, because no one will want to share. When Coudouy was in New York he served about 200 diners a night. Of those, 150 ordered souflees, leaving 50 or so to wonder what they were missing.

Whiskey Elk

Taylor Kundolf is the pianist in Whiskey Elk Lounge next door, which offers an option called “Flights.” Basically, they bring you four tastings of a type of liquor such as Scotch, bourbon, cognac, wines and almost anything else you can name. But more than anything, Kundolf and Whiskey Elk offer atmosphere and entertainment. Kundolf is a contender for the world “Name That Tune” title. He will play anything you can name. To stump him, some guy resorted to an obscure B-side track from a Mannheim Steamroller album no one had ever heard of.

To test the musical database he keeps in his brain, your server brings you a couple song-request cards. The further you and your companion are enveloped in the evening, the more obscure the requests tend to become. It’s not like Taylor considers it a personal challenge, but he will respond with the most pleasant, charming and disarming bring-it-on response you’ll ever hear.

The entire experience creates that vacation-in-an-evening you’re looking for. If you’re here on vacation, carve out a little time for a Room with a Vue.