Brief Vail report -- La Bottega & Kelly Liken
We were in Vail over New Years' so to avoid the crowds, we cooked at our condo a decent amount, but we did have a few meals out (other than apres ski snacks), that I thought were worth commenting on:
La Bottega -- what a pleasant space with such wonderful cuisine at affordable prices. We went for a LATE lunch (3:30) after most places had stopped serving on New Years' Eve. We had a delightful meal of panini. The staff was so nice, the wines by the glass were also nice. They also have slightly more expensive pasta options, but still not expensive by Vail standards.
Kelly Liken -- we were VERY disappointed with this place. My chile short ribs lacked flavor and certainly weren't spicy. My husband's lamb was tough -- a rarity for a top Vail restaurant. The wine list was beyond overpriced. However, their specialty cocktails were pretty good, as was the dessert -- but avoid the cheese plate as it doesn't seem to contain any interesting cheeses. (The selection rotates, but this sounded good and it sure wasn't.) This place was more expensive than most restaurants we eat at in NEW YORK and was nowhere near as good. We thought it might be because it was New Years' Day, but we saw the owner-chef out on the floor and in the kitchen and we also talked to her husband for a while. My father-in-law and his girlfriend loved the place, but I'd say there are A LOT better options. (I personally am partial to Sweet Basil, having had a very bizarre experience at Larkspur a few years ago. Not that the food isn't good at Larkspur -- it is -- but Sweet Basil is a much better overall service/food combination)
I don't understand how Kelly Liken stays open. There is simply too much good food and service in the Valley for a place that continues to get bad reviews to keep going. We tried KL right after it opened and it was just OK. Tried it again a year or so later and had the same experience. Two strikes at those prices and you're out. Sweet Basil and Larkspur in Vail, Juniper in Edwards and Golden Eagle Inn in Beaver Creek have always, in our experience, been consistently good.
re: River Rat
RR(AKA Dick), I found out how KL stays open. We had some friends staying at the Ritz and the concierge made reservations for them. I think that happens with most hotels in the Valley because they can't get guests into the really good places during busy times. We made sure that didn't happen. They did New Years Eve at Splendido (sp) and loved it. They did say its overpriced, but the piano player makes the lounge fun.
And we all went to the Saloon for quail, which is the only thing I'll eat there.
Have you tried Plate?
Also, the wine store at Costco is a independent owner, so no Kirkland branded wines. But they have good $15 to $30 wines, probably the best deals in the Valley.
We were up for two weeks over the holidays, but had family and guests with us the entire time! At at Golden Eagle, Splendido, Grouse Mountain Grill and Juniper. All the food was good. Of course, your friends are right about Splendido being overpriced. So is Grouse Mountain Grill, in my opinion.
Haven't eaten at Plate. Do you mean Dish? Haven't eaten there, either.
Best meal we had while up there was a standing rib roast I bought at Costco and cooked at the townhouse!
Kelly Liken is an overall disappointment.
We spent over $250 on a $99 retail bottle of wine, and while that is expected in a resort town, we were really disappointed by the bad service and horrible desserts.
Even though we tipped 20% on the bill, including the wine (pretty high for a bottle of that price), she made sure we were cut off from all service or attention once the bill was paid. When we responded that we were disappointed by the dessert, she was offended.
The ribeye was delightful, but it was on a bed of what tasted like bitter fennel. The chocolate bread pudding had no chocolate taste whatsoever, just mushy bread with a drizzle of bland chocolate over the small squares.
The bread was unimpressive, and the fact they delivered one slice a piece to us and we had to request more only made matters worse.
We asked to say hello to the chef, if only mildly kidding. The waitress had a curt reply: "She stepped out". What my experience tells me in 'named' restaurants is that the chef actually doesn't even work there very often.
Avoid this place.
La Bottega is a very good place to get a casual meal in Vail. In the summer its really nice to sit on the sidewalk in front. Having lost the parking lot behind it has taken some very convenient parking away (even if it wasnt for Bottega, wed park there).
I hope Kelly Likem will get after their issues. I could be a good place. But with 2 large building going in behind it and across the street, I worry about them having a chance. And Sweet Basil is aways great, but personnel turnover keeps it from getting the warm feel you get when you return. At Larkspur the same great barkeeps, wine guy and servers stay, they are like family.
This holiday season was way to busy for the Vail Valley to handle. Most Valley locals never went beyond Dowd Junction (Minturn exit) during the 2 weeks. Just going to grocery store was unpleasant. In the stores, many folks were lined up with 2 full shopping carts, getting throught the isle and checkout was a nightmare. So many families did what you did, eat in. And the stores sold out of many things. The good restaurants resorted to just trying to get through the 2 weeks. In most places, any attempt to keep up a good front, fell apart after the first week.
It's funny that we had a very different experience the last time we were at Larkspur. We will have to try it again next year -- we were actually supposed to go there as opposed to Kelly Liken, and I'm somewhat disappointed we didn't give it another shot.
Agreed that everything was crazy -- which was one of the great things about La Bottega; it was pleasant and relaxed and not the least bit Vail-holiday-hectic!
Your review of Kelly Liken is right on.
Food is overpriced, mediocre and portions dainty.
Wine prices, by the glass, are offensive.
Having said that, nice place for a drink before dinner.
This is not a place for people who enjoy great food. Its more for people who enjoy looking great. At least in their own minds.