Sapphire Restaurant and Oyster Bar, Vail Village, seasonal
Vail CO, Colorado
Sapphire Restaurant and Oyster Bar
Gore Creek Drive, Vail Village
Even for people who have been frequenting it for years, Sapphire feels like a find. The wrap-around deck offers a prime view of Gore Creek, while generous tables in the lively dining room are spacious and sleek. Open for lunch and dinner, the seasonal fare and raw bar are addictive in the summer. The menu doesn’t begin with appetizers; instead, they call them “Starters, Salads and Small Entrees,” encouraging people feel free to eat lighter portions if they feel like it. Of course, it’s hard to resist the traditionally-sized entrees, too.
Chef Peter Millette’s menu draws from several culinary cultures: Old Mexico, Asia, France, India. More than anything, travel inspires his cuisine. “If you’re going to use another culture’s food, you have to understand what they’re doing in the first place.” In that sense, classics make up the foundation of his menu ” classic techniques, classic combinations, classic flavor profiles. He doesn’t like to muddy the waters, but he’s not afraid to cross boundaries. For example, the chicken kabobs bring real tandori flavor to the table. After a long stint in a tenderizing yogurt marinade, they’re grilled to smokey perfection and served with Israeli couscous and grilled seasonal veggies, a nice twist. Someone else at the table might opt for Sapphire’s signature prime New York steak, encrusted with pistachios and poblano peppers. Served with a Southwestern chile sauce, it’s obviously from an entirely different corner of the world, but it all works together.
On a hot day, nothing but the sesame seared tuna “nachos” on wonton chips will do. Served with guacamole and sambal mayo, the light dish packs a wallop of flavor. The tempura asparagus manages to be light, despite being flash-fried. It’s also addictive. Anyone with even a passing interest in oysters should indulge in the raw bar’s offerings. And though the miso-marinated ahi is a best seller, the vegetarian enchiladas are damned fine. Stuffed with authentic braised greens, cotija cheese and pine nuts, the tomatillo salsa zips them up. Not only tasty, they’re healthy, too.