Avalon Bar & Grill is back with new owners, a new gourmet menu but the same local values.
The restaurant, which closed early in 2012, reopened at the beginning of May under Anna and Stefano Cipollone.
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Avalon Bar & Grill
105 W. Valley View Road
Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. See www.avalonbarandgrill.com.
The couple added a fresh coat of paint, hardwood floors and a new bar top, but for the most part the interior retains the simple elegance of the "old" Avalon.
Even before the restaurant was open for business, Anna Cipollone says, foodies, Talent residents and musicians were stopping by, eager to see the Avalon restored to its former glory.
"The essence of the old Avalon is what we are trying to work with," she says. "They had something really good going on here."
For the new menu, chef Stefano Cipollone incorporates Northwest ingredients into European- and Mediterranean-inspired dishes. One example is the "skewered vegetables" entree — grilled seasonal vegetables in a toasted walnut and basil pesto, served over a couscous-kale salad with flatbread on the side.
Cipollone's dad owned four Italian restaurants in Florida, where Cipollone worked until he was 21. Since then, he's worked under European chefs at resorts in Vail, Colo., as well as at the Jacksonville Inn and Cicily's Pastaria and Grill.
The Cipollones emphasize their local values. Ingredients are purchased from the Phoenix Farmers Market and Cherry Street Meats in Medford. The watercolor landscapes on the walls are by Jacksonville artist Elaine Frenett, and the live music schedule, posted on a large chalkboard near the bar, features local musicians such as The Rogue Suspects, Ryan Vosika and others.
My husband, Sean, and I patronized the restaurant last Tuesday, about a week shy of the restaurant's grand opening, set for Wednesday, May 22. However, we, like the Cipollones, had underestimated the impact of word-of-mouth in a town the size of Talent. The restaurant was bustling with a diverse clientele — men feasting on wings and beer near the flat-screen TV, older ladies enjoying white wine and buttered clams at a table near us, and several young people sipping cocktails at the bar. Several groups also were seated on the outdoor patio.
We were offered a paper menu listing eight starters, seven salads, two burgers and 11 entrees.
I considered the starters, specifically the artichoke ($7.50) with a creamy paprika dipping sauce and the prosciutto, goat cheese and fig flatbread pizza ($8), but in the end, I ordered a cup of soup with my meal.
The soup special for the day was creamy vegetable. It was served piping hot but not scalding, and what it lacked in flavor, it made up for in texture. The smooth soup was studded with corn, potatoes, white beans, carrots, kale and green beans, topped with a sprinkling of crispy bacon bits and a drizzle of creme fraiche.
For dinner, I settled on the kale pasta ($13). The housemade pasta was prepared slightly more than al dente and strewn with cherry tomato halves, long strips of portobello and oyster mushrooms and chopped kale. However, the flavors of all were lost to the rich and robust Gorgonzola cheese sauce.
Sean ordered the lamb skewer ($16). The lamb, which comes from Roseburg, was grilled to medium at the waiter's suggestion, served in large chunks in a shallow dish of Israeli couscous and herbs, and topped with a tangy cucumber-mint-yogurt sauce. Three wedges of soft, grilled flatbread completed this dish that some might recognize as Greek souvlaki.
In addition to the pasta, Avalon's in-house baker makes all its bread, buns, flatbreads and desserts. Unfortunately, when it came time for dessert, the chocolate mousse was sold out, but the creme brulee ($6) was an acceptable alternative.
I was surprised when the dessert was served in a deep dish rather than a shallow ramekin. The smaller surface meant less of the crispy, sugar crust, but Stefano Cipollone had his reasons.
"When I sink a spoon in the creme brulee and it hits the bottom of the plate, it makes me sad," he says. "I didn't want the customers to feel like they were scraping the dish."
On this particular night, the restaurant seemed short-staffed. Our water glasses were empty most of the evening, and we relied on the seating hostess to fetch our waiter when it was time to order dessert and get our check. No doubt, the restaurant will have these kinks worked out in time.
Avalon Bar & Grill, located at 105 W. Valley View Road, Talent, will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. See www.avalonbarandgrill.com.
— Teresa Thomas