Saturday, December 17, 2011


It's a little-known fact: the tasty yet humble hamburgers at Larkburger's many front range locations actually have their roots at the high-end Larkspur restaurant in Vail, CO. Cashing in on the popularity of their Larkburger served at the bar, the management of the mountain restaurant decided to spin off the burger concept with a proliferation of fast-casual restaurants across the state.

And thus it was that our love of the Larkburger brought us to Larkspur during a recent winter fun weekend in Vail.

It was a big step up for us to go from stuffing our faces with the $5 amazingness of Little Larks and Truffle Parmesan Fries on the front range to the fine dining, ski-slope atmosphere of Larkspur, but we were prepared for the challenge.

Larkspur is situated at the extreme east end of the base of Vail mountain, making it close enough to the slope to ski up to for lunch. Except that during our early-season visit, the lifts near the restaurant weren't open, and Larkspur was only offering dinner service.

We had dinner reservations for 7:15 on a Friday in early December. Getting into Larkspur after exiting the cab required trekking through the deserted Golden Peak Lodge, with the restaurant tucked into the back corner.

Larkspur is spacious, beautifully adorned, and upscale. The bar area where the Larkburger was born lies at the very front as you walk in, and behind it in the main dining area is ample seating, including plenty of space for large parties. The restaurant was mostly full when we arrived and filled to near capacity by the end of our meal.

For those of you who have never been to Vail, it's a beautiful ski town bustling with an international assortment of some of the most beautiful and ritzy people you've ever seen. The top echelon of those beautiful people appeared to be dining at Larkspur during our visit.

We were greeted by our waitress and began the meal with drinks and complimentary multigrain bread and butter.

I should point out that Larkspur offers an impressively long wine list. I would elaborate on this point more except I'm completely ignorant about wine.

As an appetizer, we ordered Larkspur's take on a Shrimp Po'boy ($9.5), which was sort of a deconstructed po'boy served with cornbread slices and a mustard sauce.

Shrimp Po'boy

This dish is an unusual choice for a fine dining establishment in Vail, although we certainly enjoyed it. I couldn't find any mention of it in Yelp reviews, so I assume it's new to the menu.

The fried shrimp tasted just like the ones that my mom, a Louisiana native, uses in po'boys. The use of cornbread and mustard sauce is certainly not traditional, but it was very tasty and a pleasant sweet-and-savory compliment to the shrimp.

As my main dish, I ordered the Snake River Sturgeon ($28):

Snake River Sturgeon

The sturgeon was presented with a crispy crust and served on a bed of red beans. The fish was delicate, light, and perfectly seared. The red beans were extremely tasty; they were very well seasoned, and like the fish, expertly cooked.

My husband ordered the Veal Scaloppini ($32):

Veal Scaloppini

Veal scaloppini is a traditional veal dish prepared with floured, flattened veal cutlets. Larkspur's version was accompanied by creamed spinach, twice baked potatoes, and "lemon buerre fondue." It was an excellent, comfort-food type dish.

The twice-baked potatoes were particularly memorable; they were crisp on the outside and incredibly soft and creamy on the inside. They were served as slices rather than potato halves, with no additional toppings, which was unexpected. As far as the lemon beurre sauce, there's no reason to call it "fondue," it was just a cream sauce. The tartness of the sauce nicely balanced the rich flavor of the veal.

We finished the meal with the Brooklyn Blackout Cake ($11.5):

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

The cake was a simple, almost brownie-like chocolate rectangle. It was topped with what Larkspur referred to as "Fudgesicle Sorbet" and "Fox's U-Bet Froth." I have no clue what the froth flavor was supposed to be referring to, and the sorbet had a deep chocolaty but still light flavor.

Service was very good. Our waitress was helpful and friendly but seemed relatively new.

Larkspur was expensive, but so is everything else in Vail. For comparable food in Denver I would expect to pay about 10-20% less. That being said, I generally felt the food and drinks were appropriately priced for the quality and location. One exception was the dessert, which, for $11.5 seemed a little steep for such a simple preparation.

The food and ambiance were lovely at Larkspur, although for fine dining in Colorado I prefer Opus in Littleton. Larkspur is definitely worth a visit for a nice dinner in Vail.

Fine Dining

(7 of 10)

Pros: Excellent food and ambiance
Cons: Expensive, may be hard to get to without skis


Larkspur Restaurant & Market on Urbanspoon


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