Capella Telluride's Onyx: Less is more

Capella Telluride's Onyx: Less is more

Capella Telluride Hi Res and JPEGS 134 Capella Telluride's former executive chef Kenny Gilbert left the Mountain Village to pursue fame and fortune. He is now a front runner in "Top Chef"  and has a new, permanent slot in the PGA National Resort & Spa in South Florida. Well, some like it hot. Capella's new top toque is Chef Gabriel Kolofon, whose approach to cooking appears far more restrained. In Kolofan's kitchen, less is more.

One of the kitchens Kolofon presides over is Capella's signature restaurant, Onyx, where Telluride Inside… and Out dined last week. Where Gilbert's virtuosic preparations shouted "Look at me," Kolofon's dishes beg to be discovered like a pretty librarian in glasses. When the glasses come off, the effect is magnetic. You just may not have seen it coming. Chef Gabriel's credo: high quality ingredients don't require much improvement in order to taste good.

Capella Telluride Hi Res and JPEGS 135 The fresh corn cream soup, for example, was served with a post-modernist bias deconstructed, with croutons, fresh mozzarella, roasted red pepper, poblano pepper and fresh corn salad mostly on the side, a nod to the individuality of each guest, who gets to build his own.The kick came from a light dusting of chipotle powder. In the chipotle shrimp stew, the heat was offset by the lime juice and avocado. For Kolofon, it's all about point counterpoint.

A bed of fresh summer vegetable risotto was an excellent and unusual underpinning for one of the stand-out main courses: the braised short rib which melted on the tongue like butter.  The wild salmon served with white beans and spinach, red pepper cilantro sauce, was cooked through, but moist, with a crisp skin, all of which conspired to nudge, not push, the palate into full submission. If you are a meat and potatoes kind of guy, comfort comes from Onyx's full steak menu. One friend, who ordered the Angus New York strip, reported it was cooked to medium rare perfection. His savory sides include an alliterative combo: potato and pear gratin.

It was no easy task covering all bases with just one bottle of wine, but our host rose to the occasion, ordering a soft, dry red to complement the kaleidoscope of flavors on the table: the Emeritus Russian River Pinot Noir has undertones of plum and cherry.

Sated and too full for dessert, we were nevertheless convinced to order off the candy cart, a throwback to the days when a nickel bought you a Snickers bar at the corner store. Uncle! Who could resist mini dark chocolate brownies?

The simple elegance of the room is the perfect complement to Kolofon's food. There is plenty of elbow room in the softly lit room, which emphasizes comfort over drama, and a meal seasoned with conversation.

At Onyx, nothing is canned, especially not the service. Ask the staff's advice with impunity: everyone you are likely to meet will be considerate and well-informed. I had a chance to test my first impression of the wait staff over lunch on two subsequent occasions. When too much pepper threatened to overwhelm Kolofon's otherwise unique chicken noodle soup, my waitress suggested a few squeezes of the lemon she produced would mellow things out. (She was right.) When a friend ordered her Cobb salad Five Easy Pieces-style minus the bacon and blue cheese, when she rejected the dressing asking for Balsamic vinegar only, there were no raised eyebrows or veiled snickers. Such easy accommodation inspires generous moods.

(photos courtesy of Capella Telluride)


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