By Kim Fuller Published in the Vail Daily
The nightly piano riffs that float across the Splendido dining room are as soft and pleasing as the peach light of a mountain sunset. Warming streams of rhythmic consistency fill the space with exquisite nostalgia — a timeless longing for the beauty and grace to linger a little longer.
This is Splendido’s 20th summer in Beaver Creek, marking two decades of divine dining. White tablecloths and fine art still adorn the restaurant, accompanied by the familiar sweep of ivory keys that keeps the resonance real, year after year.
There’s always a seasonal flare to the menu at Splendido, where tomato salads aren’t served in February, and squash isn’t roasted in June. The fine dining restaurant has traditional roots, but there’s an innovative, contemporary undercurrent that keeps the classic establishment everlasting — and fun. Very fun.
“Left to my own devices, I would cook very classic French, or eat classic French, all the time,” shares Splendido chef-owner, David Walford. “Of course, that’s not very popular anymore, and even though I love that kind of cooking, I know I have to speak to a wide audience.”
The menu speaks volumes, and each plate delivers its promise. Start with the Hawaiian Kampachi crudo, set on an earthy and bright green apple and celery broth, served with meyer lemon, shiso, ginger and basil on top. A crisp Austrian white wine pairs beautifully with each butter-like bite of the raw fish, cleansing the palate while prepping it for more.
Have Brian Rhodes, dining room manger and beverage director, pair a taste of sake with the miso-grilled asparagus salad. The summer vegetable is placed on a white miso sauce, creamy and rich, which is cut perfectly by each sip of the rice wine.
The smallest of details on every dish, crafted by Walford and his team, including Chef de Cuisine Brian Ackerman, add textures and flavors that only taste buds can translate, and yet the beauty of each presentation is as awe-inspiring as each bite.
Seafood connoisseurs will devour the Alaskan black cod with clam and celery root broth. It’s reminiscent of an East Coast chowder, served with crab, pancetta and Old Bay potatoes. Leave it to oak for a perfect wine paring here, with a chardonnay from Sonoma.
The duck at Splendido astonishes. Try this delicate and savory breast with a glass of robust red wine, like Rhode’s choice of a Napa Valley cab franc and merlot blend. The dish is accompanied with orange and apricot accents, and is served skin down — a salty component that makes the rich meat more mouthwatering. The flavors are tantalizing, complete with baby green beans, onions, leeks and chive blossoms.
For dessert, warm brown butter s’mores are melt-in-your-mouth delectable, and, of course, leave you craving more. A petite syrah port sings praises to the milk chocolate cremeux, placed alongside graham cracker ice cream and toasted marshmallow. I’ll have some more, please … merci. •