Tower of taste
La Tour is as cozy as a home, with its yellow-washed walls and interior windows. White linens drape the tables, each of which is crowned by a small bronze figurine. Canvasses bright with primary colors lend a funky chic air to the surroundings, which usually rings with the clink of glasses and happy chatter.
The kitchen is the domain of Paul; Lourdes handles everything in the front of the house. More often than not she’ll be the one to greet guests as they come through the door, or stop by their tables to check on things.
It was upon her recommendation we tried the infused liquors. The tropical tequila tastes of pineapple, star fruit and coconut, with a subtle agave kick. It goes down dangerously easily, and makes for a festive beginning for those with stamina.
My husband and I have been dining at La Tour for years. If he doesn’t order the Maine lobster bisque ($10) to start, he doesn’t feel right about it. Creamy with that elusive lobster taste that fills the mouth but won’t be pinned down, it’s a study in decadence, balanced in texture by a twist of pastry. I’ve become fond of Chef Paul’s cheese tarts, which change every so often and are usually better if eaten with your fingers. It’s currently made with wild mushrooms and brie ($10), accompanied by a roasted tomato salad and drizzled with vintage sherry syrup and white truffle oil.
For the main course, they always have Colorado rack of lamb ($38), tender and succulent. It’s presently served in a pesto crust, with an eggplant-feta napoleon, lamb jus and that classic French side, tomato provencal.
La Tour’s signature dish – and my personal favorite – is Dover sole meuniere ($36). Pan fried with a deft hand in the classical style, the pieces have the lightest of coatings and a delicate taste. Bathed in a lemon brown butter sauce, there’s the merest hint of sweetness. The accompanying baby creamer potatoes and green beans are tender-crisp to the fork.
“There are a few house secrets that go into it. We twist it just a little bit – but nothing I could tell you,” said Paul, laughing.
Paul moved to Vail in 1991 to be the first chef at Two Elk on Vail Mountain, and then at Game Creek Club in 1995. During the summer street festivals, he often serves a mean pizza, Chicago-style. But as a classically trained French chef, a French restaurant is a natural fit for him. Coupled with Lourdes’ warmth for both staff and guests, La Tour is a local institution.
“No matter how good the food is, if you don’t have good service you don’t have a good meal,” explained Lourdes. “But we have an incredible team of servers. They could almost cook the food, they’re so knowledgeable about it.”
“We certainly seem to attract high quality staff, probably because it’s a very copacetic place to work,” said Paul. “People enjoy working here. And having four sommeliers on staff, people want to be surrounded by that because it’s a great opportunity to learn more.”
It’s unusual to have so many servers who are also sommeliers. We asked our server/sommelier, Bill Miller, to pair wines with each course, and were beyond pleased with the results. Obviously, we weren’t simply lucky.
Dessert eaters have several options. Flame fans should try the creme brulee ($8.50), which arrives at table burning off its top layer of Grand Marnier. The warm apple tart ($8.50) is complemented by cinnamon ice cream and a naughty caramel sauce.
La Tour has earned its reputation for excellent service and food. The restaurant opens for dinner nightly at 5:30 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended. Call 476-4403 for more information.
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.