Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Sneak Peek: AVANT
Dishes from Rancho Bernardo Inn’s much-anticipated resto refresh
Last week, I had the opportunity to tour the construction site for AVANT, a new seasonally driven farm-to-table restaurant being installed at the Rancho Bernardo Inn (17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive, Rancho Bernardo). It’s a site I’m quite familiar with. Many are the evening I dined there when it was El Bizcocho, a fine dining spot commanded by talents including Gavin Kaysen and Patrick Ponsaty.
After decades of faithful service and several failed rebrands behind chefs both modernist and traditional, El Biz was shuttered to make room for AVANT, which is scheduled to open next month. When it does, it will feature dishes built largely around locally procured ingredients. It sounds like a familiar concept, because it is. Many restaurants are going this route. Not surprisingly, the menu includes numerous ubiquitous offerings such as shishito peppers, deviled eggs, calamari, and house-made charcuterie.
But chef Nicolas Bour’s classic European technique and Mediterranean-meets-SoCal touches figure to make AVANT’s offerings discernible from others employing the local, sustainable model. Even if they don’t, there’ll be something completely unique to San Diego County at AVANT—mustard on tap. The restaurant’s bar will be equipped with two taps serving a house mustard and rotating flavored mustard crafted by Bour. AVANT is one of only three restaurants in the world equipped to provide this value-added component.
After the hard-hat tour, I tasted a truffle mustard that, as a mustard addict (the only thing I have more of in my fridge than assorted jars of mustard are bottles and cans of craft beer), thought it was outstanding. Bour uses Napa verjus (unripe grape juice), champagne vinegar, and mustard seeds imported from France to make his condiments. Prototypes he designed using American mustard seeds were too bitter. Visitors to AVANT will be able to belly up to a charcuterie bar (that includes rare Iberico ham imported from Spain) and, as one would be guided through a tasting at a sushi bar, be taken for a sampling ride that includes artisanal meats, cheeses and Bour’s mustards.
The bar will also be equipped with kegged wines on-tap. In the dining room, dishes are concise and relatively simple. A stone fruit-elderflower vinaigrette and smart seasoning on a red quinoa and avocado salad brings on an earthiness evocative of a tostada minus the tortilla. A heaping helping of seared Big Eye tuna gets a salty boost from finely chopped olive "caviar." On the dessert front, cheesecake made from Laura Chenel chevre is made even more divinely tart thanks to lemon curd and seasonal berries.
The book on AVANT has yet to be written, but the mustard-smudged foreword is promising.
More like this:
- Birds, bees & oysters are out at Brooklyn Girl — May 8, 2013
- Dinner at Heat — March 20, 2013
- RB Inn's sign flashes "No (chef) Vacancy" — Jan. 14, 2013
- RBI's annual Beer Vs. Wine melee — Sept. 24, 2012
- Star Chef Gavin Kaysen Returning to Send El Biz Off in Style — May 18, 2012