By Alan Markoff
Fine dining is not about eating a meal; it's about experiencing a meal.
The best dining experiences engage all of the senses. They usually offer something a little different, as well. Avecita's Chef's Counter dining experience at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa ticks these boxes in a way no other restaurant on Grand Cayman can on a regular basis.
The first thing guests will notice when they walk through the doors to Avecita is the subtle aroma of wood smoke. This welcoming scent is a gentle reminder that Avecita is a Spanish wood fire restaurant.
Avecita shares its modern and artistically designed space with its sister restaurant, Ave. While Ave offers a Mediterranean menu that includes steaks and seafood, Avecita focuses on modern renditions of classic Spanish tapas, along with some larger dishes. Its Chef's Counter experience is a five-course tasting menu that changes every few months to incorporate fresh, seasonal, local ingredients.
The Chef's Counter seats only 10 diners per evening, with one seating at 7 p.m. Reservations are a must and should be made well in advance.
Guests sit in high-top chairs at the counter that separates the kitchen from the dining area. With the wood oven flaming in the background, culinary theatre unfolds right in front of the guests, as the chefs prepare food for them as well as other restaurant diners.
One server is assigned to the counter for the evening, working behind it in the same area as the chefs.
As each course is served, one of the chefs explains what it is and in many cases, how it was made.
If the guest has chosen the optional beverage pairing — as most diners do — the server pours the cocktail or wine and explains a bit about it as well.
The Avecita Chef's Counter tasting menu at the beginning of 2020 started with two creative amuse-bouches that weren't part of the printed five-course menu. One was a small piece of smokey "burnt" cucumber filled with flavoured crème fraîche while the other was a small amount of premium Spanish extra virgin olive oil encapsulated in a spun sugar candy vial. These two small bites were a clear indication of how unusual the meal would be, something confirmed by the first course on the menu.
Gazpacho is usually made with a tomato base, but Avecita's gazpacho used a beetroot and berry base, topped with smoked blueberries and a goat cheese ball shaped and coloured to look like a tomato. This was served with an attractive sparkling wine cocktail called a Scarlet Tanager.
The next three courses featured a sea scallop, striped sea bass and then wagyu beef, each served with different Spanish wines. One of those wines, served with the sea bass dish, was a soft red wine blend made primarily with a rather obscure grape called "Bobal" from the area of Valencia in Spain.
In between each of these three courses were more small bites, one a palate cleanser called "false egg" that was served in a small covered dish that was infused with smoke before serving.
The ultra-tender wagyu beef was served medium rare with Romesco sauce, a tomato-based sauce that originated in the Catalonia region of Spain.
Dessert consisted of an artistic display of coconut ice cream, black sesame crumble and tart yuzu droplets, all served with a unique cocktail that blended three different rums, sherry, aged balsamic vinegar and other ingredients, and served in a Port glass with a sipping "tail."
To end the night, the server offered to take an instant photograph — at the counter or in the kitchen with the chefs — as a memento of the experience.
Because diners are seated next to each other during the Avecita Chef's Counter experience, it invites interaction between guests who might not know each other.
For this reason, the Chef's Counter dining experience is also an excellent choice for single diners who not only get to interact with those sitting nearby, but also with the server and chefs.
The cost of the Avecita Chef's Counter experience is CI$75, with the optional beverage pairing priced at CI$55. For a true fine dining experience that features excellent food, beverages, service and ambiance, and then also creates a fond and lasting memory, these prices represent fantastic value.
This article was originally published in February’s print edition of Camana Bay Times, with the headline “An Avecita dining experience.”
About the author
Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for three years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 16 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. An avid baseball fan, Alan loves travelling but also schedules trips back home around catching a summer game or two with his home team, Cleveland Indians.