Simply delicious | VailDaily.com

Simply delicious

Cassie Pence

V ail Daily/Dominique TaylorRoast sea bass with lemon, olives, capers and tomatoes is one of the signature dishes at Falling Creek restaurant in Arrowhead.

ARROWHEAD – Falling Creek’s Executive Chef Darrell Jensen believes simple food is better food. Jensen’s culinary minimalism stands out in the fine-dining world, where the standard has become fusing countless flavors. He was trained in Los Angeles, where Asian ingredients dominate menus. So for Falling Creek, he wasn’t going to try to be everything to everyone. He wanted the menu to be different. But it was a challenge, he said, because simple cooking doesn’t always mean easy cooking.”The more simple the food, the more perfect you have to prepare it,” Jensen said. “You have very little room to make a mistake.”

Falling Creek opened last November. It’s located at the Country Club of the Rockies in Arrowhead and is open to the public. Locals might remember the space as the Bristol, but since then, it has been remodeled into an elegant, yet rustic lodge. There is a large terrace overlooking McCoy Creek and the golf course for al fresco dining during lunch and dinner, when weather permits.Before opening, Jensen and Chris Randall, owner and general manager, sat down to create the menu. Every time they wanted to add an ingredient to a dish, they would take one out instead, in an effort to stay to true to the restaurant’s philosophy. Big, natural flavor is the end result.”I love egg rolls and lemongrass, but we’re not going to do it on this menu,” Randall said. “With olives, lemon and basil, you can do plenty.”

Falling Creek’s menu features American cuisine with a nod toward the Mediterranean, and it’s very focused in that endeavor. Jensen named the roasted sea bass ($26) and the Italian braised short ribs ($20) as the restaurant’s signature dishes.”I developed the sea bass for my mom one year,” Jensen said. “She wanted a simple baked fish using fresh ingredients.”The sea bass is prepared with preserved lemon, olives, capers and tomatoes, allowing the flavor of the fresh fish to stand out. The Italian braised short ribs, served with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables, is one of the more complicated dishes on the menu because of its involved sauce, which came from Italy.”If we do make things complicated, it’s complicated behind the scenes, so all you get is a very tasty dish at the table,” Jensen said.

The appetizer menu specializes in fresh vegetables and seafood. The roasted beet and goat cheese salad ($9), with mixed greens, walnuts and sherry vinaigrette, and the warm shrimp salad with mint oil ($11) are the two to try. Potato is the surprise ingredient in the shrimp salad.Randall has worked in the restaurant business for 25 years, spending much of his time in Chicago managing restaurants for Lettuce Entertain You, one of the most successful concept-restaurant companies in the country. Falling Creek’s wine list reflects Randall’s experience.”This is the best, most affordable wine list in the valley,” said our server James Holmes. “Chris is into delicate wines for easy going food.”

With so many unusual wines on the list, Holmes had a hard time choosing one, but opted for the Sea Smoke pinot noir, perfect for a whole table since it complements many flavors well. It’s a dark pinot noir with earthy flavors.Fullness isn’t a factor when it comes to Falling Creek’s dessert menu because the restaurant offers “really small desserts.” You can choose a plate of three to share for $9. Don’t leave without sampling the tiny chocolate pots de creme.”We’re very proud of our food and our restaurant’s philosophy,” Jensen said. “We let the natural flavors of the food come through.”

Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or cpence@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado