Keyah Grande (Pagosa Springs, CO) – Legitimate 2 Star Dining

(Note: The chefs have left Keyah Grande since this review was written.)

Like a great Michelin-starred French restaurant, Keyah Grande is tucked far away on a hill in the middle of nowhere. It’s located a few miles outside of Pagosa Springs, Colorado; a city apparently famous for its hot springs. As you drive down the road, there is a only a large gate with the letters – KG.Press the call button, the gates open, and you drive 2-3 miles down a dirt road up the hill. Twisting and turning until suddently:

Keyah Grande - Hotel

An ultra-modern hotel sitting on top of the hill amongst all of the woods. Walk inside and immediately there’s a Chihuly – they aren’t cheap. The 7 rooms are named after countries and decorated with furnishings from the namesake.

This is Japan:

Keyah Grande - Japan Room

Keyah Grande - Japan Room

Keyah Grande - Japan Room

Keyah Grande - Japan Room

and its view:

Keyah Grande - Japan Room View/></p>
<p>The main dining room has 4 spacious tables (no pics.)</p>
<p>I had corresponded with the chef <a href=after reading his blog. This was the sort of place I was hoping to discover on my road trip across the country – hidden jewels off the beaten path that I may not make it to anytime soon. He had agreed to do a tasting menu of 11-12 items; upon sitting down, the tasting menu had 19 items. All right – my kind of place….

1. Vinegar Martini w/ Spruce, Walnut, Noble Sour Vinegar

A big bang with powerful, integrated flavors that completely enveloped your mouth. It might have been a touch too cold but the tastes set the tone for the meal – intense flavors would rule. This was a Bastide-quality dish. Excellent.

IdeasinFood - Vinegar Martini w/ Spruce, Walnut, Noble Sour Vinegar

2. Grilled Potato Ice Cream w/ Smoked Wild Char Roe, Golden Purslane, & Chives

The ice cream was a touch icy but it had an incredible grilled flavor. The grill and smoked flavors danced around in your mouth after the ice cream melted away. You can read more about the preparation of the roe here http://ideasinfood.typepad.com/ideas_in_food/2006/10/ wild_char_roe.html]http://ideasinfood.typepad.com/ideas_in_fo…d_char_roe.html . Excellent.

IdeasinFood - Grilled Potato Ice Cream w/ Smoked Wild Char Roe, Golden Purslane, & Chives

3. Tuna w/ Comte, Red Ribbon Sorrel, & Onion Syrup

High quality tuna. The dish started sweet from the syrup, gave way to the firm texture and iron of the tuna, and ended with the saltiness from the comte crystals. The dish tasted great but I’m not sure if all the ingredients were necessary. Very Good.

IdeasinFood - Tuna w/ Comte, Red Ribbon Sorrel, & Onion Syrup

4. Madagascar Prawn w/ Clear Buttermilk, Celery Leaves, & Brittle Curried Cashews

Cooked perfectly, just a touch cold in the middle. The brittle tasted gingerbread-like; it was possibly too sweet but perfectly satisfying. You could control the amount you ate w/ the prawn – put less – and you have an interesting play on the sweetness of the prawn & brittle. You can read more about the brittle here http://ideasinfood.typepad.com/ideas_in_food/2006/10/ curried_cashew_.html]http://ideasinfood.typepad.com/ideas_in_fo…ed_cashew_.html . Excellent.

IdeasinFood - Madagascar Prawn w/ Clear Buttermilk, Celery Leaves, & Brittle Curried Cashews

5. Beer Battered Cuttlefish w/ Thai Basil, Liquid Chorizio, & Yuzu Disc

Nice frying (nothing like the heavy hand @ Senderens a few weeks ago) where the chorizio gave the dish some depth and the yuzu’s acid cut through the grease and gave everything a bit more brightness. I would suggest cutting the portion size to half. Very Good.

IdeasinFood - Beer Battered Cuttlefish w/ Thai Basil, Liquid Chorizio, & Yuzu Disc

6. Mozzarella Yuba w/ Ginger-Scallion, Passionfruit, & Ground Olive Gomasio

The “mozzarella” was satisfying but unsure of the dipping sauce. One of my least favorite of the night. However, that might be because I didn’t know what yuba was. Turns out it’s made by soybeans – well, it tasted and felt like mozzarella. Ok.

IdeasinFood - Mozzarella Yuba w/ Ginger-Scallion, Passionfruit, & Ground Olive Gomasio

7. Sunflower Seed Risotto w/ Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, Matsutake Mushrooms, & Fiore Sardo

A nicely cooked risotto (more watery ala L’Arpege or Manresa) with a great pure sunflower seed aftertaste that also enveloped your mouth long after the rice was gone. The matsutake gave it an earthy backbone. This was good enough for me. The crabmeat detracted from the dish for me because the risotto was done so well. Very Good.

IdeasinFood - Sunflower Seed Risotto w/ Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, Matsutake Mushrooms, & Fiore Sardo

8. Warmed King Salmon w/ Pistachio Cotton Candy, Watercress, & Jalepeno-Apple Dressing

It sounds like WD-50 territory but this dish worked rather well. Salmon cooked right, the cotton candy lent a touch of sweetness to the fish with a nice nutty aftertaste. The watercress and dressing gave it a small bite. You can read more about the cotton candy here http://ideasinfood.typepad.com/ideas_in_food/2006/10/pistachio_cotto.html]http://ideasinfood.typepad.com/ ideas_in_fo…chio_cotto.html . Very Good.

IdeasinFood - Warmed King Salmon w/ Pistachio Cotton Candy, Watercress, & Jalepeno-Apple Dressing

9. Petrale Sole w/ Foie Gras Bacon, Woodear Mushrooms, & Membrillo-Tomolive

I don’t remember the fish but the foie gras bacon was velvety, decadent, and utterly delicious. It had a smoky aftertaste that lingered in the mouth; the tomolive giving it all some body. Excellent.

IdeasinFood - Petrale Sole w/ Foie Gras Bacon, Woodear Mushrooms, & Membrillo-Tomolive

10. Turbot w/ Tamarind Cavetelli, Olive Leaf Arugula, & Black Radish

This dish flirted with perfection in a way that maybe only Manresa or Urasawa does for me. Delicate, the arugula gave it just enough bitterness with the radish adding a bit more kick at the end. Excellent if not for the cavetelli which muddied the dish. Here’s the recipe for the cavetelli http://ideasinfood.typepad.com/ideas_in_food/2006/09/tamarind_cavate_1.html]http:// ideasinfood.typepad.com/ideas_in_fo…d_cavate_1.html . Very Good.

IdeasinFood - Turbot w/ Tamarind Cavetelli, Olive Leaf Arugula, & Black Radish

11. Potato Gnocchi w/ Foie Gras Consumme, Red Mustard, & Argan Oil

Gnocchi was so light it was foam-like (some people might object?) sittng in the essence of foie broth. Very Good.

IdeasinFood - Potato Gnocchi w/ Foie Gras Consumme, Red Mustard, & Argan Oil

12. Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin w/ Butternut Squash, Marinated Leeks, & Olive Caramel

Tender, but the meat lacked flavor. Ok.

IdeasinFood - Slow Cooked Pork Tenderloin w/ Butternut Squash, Marinated Leeks, & Olive Caramel

13. Braised Lamb Neck w/ Whipped Baked Potato, Young Marjoram, & Roasting Jus

Meat was salty but still retained a decent texture (i hate mushy meats) and taste. Whipped potatoes were too airy – took out their satisfying aspect. Ok.

IdeasinFood - Braised Lamb Neck w/ Whipped Baked Potato, Young Marjoram, & Roasting Jus

14. Hangar Steak of Grass Fed Beef w/ Hollandaise Sheet, Preserved Perigold Truffles, & Broccoli Florets

The hollandaise sheet was a bit weird (texture-wise) – beef had a satisfying flavor. I’m no truffle expert but the combination of the two was successful. Good.

IdeasinFood - Hangar Steak of Grass Fed Beef w/ Hollandaise Sheet, Preserved Perigold Truffles, & Broccoli Florets

At this point, the wine took hold and the notes are either illegible or non-existent.

15. Fourme d”Ambert w/ Smoked Dr Pepper, Chorizio Poached Pear, & Epazote

You can read about this on their blog

IdeasinFood - Fourme d

16. Hot Cheesecake Ice Cream w/ Port Melon Condiment & Grains of Paradise

IdeasinFood - Hot Cheesecake Ice Cream w/ Port Melon Condiment & Grains of Paradise

17. Artichoke Cake w/ Blis Elixir & Rose Water Panna Cotta

IdeasinFood - Artichoke Cake w/ Blis Elixir & Rose Water Panna Cotta

18. Vahlrona Chocolate Brownie w/ Parsnip Ribbon & Ice Cream, Tart Cherry-Kola Nut

IdeasinFood - Vahlrona Chocolate Brownie w/ Parsnip Ribbon & Ice Cream, Tart Cherry-Kola Nut

19. Coffee and Biscotti as Bubble Tea

IdeasinFood - Coffee and Biscotti as Bubble Tea

Overall, I haven’t been this impressed with a first-time visit to an American restaurant since Bastide or Momofuku (and I had high expectations for this meal.) I can’t wait to go back. The meats dragged a bit but these two can cook with the best of the US. The menu reads like WD-50 but the food tasted more organic – take Manresa’s focus on flavor and mix in some WD-50 technique and pairings to extract and intensify flavors.

This is a destination restaurant – as my title suggests, I’d give it 2 French Michelin stars. The inn is beautiful and opulent, and the food is up there with the best in the US. I’d definitely put it in my top 10 and it’s possible it could break the top 5. I may go out of my way to try it again on my return trip across the country.

If you go, you should contact the chefs through their blog http://www.ideasinfood.typepad.com

- chuck

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