Golden Spoons Review: Ave

| 01/12/2017

(CNS Foodie): When you’re preparing to go out for dinner, there’s this surging excitement, almost childlike anticipation, of the possibilities of the epicurean night ahead. For me, it’s the prospect of sampling someone’s culinary creativity, a chance to take pointers from experts in a field in which I’ve dabbled, albeit as a domestic thrill, never as a profession. It’s also just as much about not having to slave over a hot stove, if I’m being honest.

We arrived at Ave in the Kimpton Seafire without a reservation, but felt that, as it was slow season, we would have no problem getting a table. The hostess was very bubbly and seemed most excited that we were locals. We were told that it would be about 15 minutes before they could seat us and recommended that we sit at the bar while we waited.

The atmosphere was relaxing; house music set at a volume that was a perfect balance between entertaining and non-intrusive. We were also taken with the restaurant’s open, airy and inviting décor, soft lighting and interesting architecture.

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London collect

The bartenders were busily mixing curious libations as we sat down, but they acknowledged us immediately, offering a menu of house specialties and other beverages. We chose the London collect ($13), a refreshing little gin delight with mandarin, elderflower, rosemary, lemon and egg white and the Kappa pisco ($14), a Spanish-style gin with fresh raspberries, mint leaves, fever tree and Mediterranean tonic. Both were sweet and delicious, created with fresh ingredients.

Our table was ready within a few minutes and we were seated along the wall bench, next to another couple. This type of seating doesn’t afford much privacy for conversation as the tables are closely stacked along the bench and you are only a foot or two away from the tables on either side of you. I looked around, expecting to see a full house (as we were told it would be 15 minutes before we could be seated) but it was only half full, with most tables set, but empty. I wondered if that was a tactic meant to drive you to the bar – which I didn’t mind as it gave me a chance to see another part of the restaurant.

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Steak tartare

Our server arrived shortly, very pleasant and engaging, offering two menus: the regular dinner selections and a smaller one specifically designed for October’s Restaurant Month, with three choices each for a starter, main and dessert. I opted for this menu, with three courses for $45 (the regular prices of each are noted below). He checked back often, but with so many interesting choices, we were having a hard time deciding. Ave touts itself as a place “where fresh, local seafood meets island produce for coastal Mediterranean recipes”, so I was keen to take the journey with them.

We started with the wahoo crudo ($15), with pickled scotch bonnet, radish, citrus and Cayman sea salt and the steak tartare ($17), with harissa (a hot chili pepper paste), preserved lemon, smoked almond and crispy garlic, and served with lavash (strips of crispy flatbread). Portion sizes were appropriate for an appetizer. My dining companion prides himself on discerning fresh fish from frozen, the wahoo seemingly the latter. The scotch bonnet was a bit excessive for my taste and not evenly distributed, so some pieces were scorching and others a bit bland. He wasn’t impressed. The tartare was texturally buttery, tender and full of flavour; certainly an acquired taste but worth it.

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Mediterranean swordfish

The main course arrived within minutes of us finishing the appetizers. I chose the Mediterranean swordfish ($28) served on a base of pureed eggplant and crispy potato, and topped with a tomato-olive tapenade and citrus vinaigrette. My date opted for the local snapper ($30) with roasted caponata (a Sicilian eggplant dish), za’atar (thyme) salsa verde and pine nuts.

Both were divine. His snapper was fresh, tender, flavourful and served with tasty trimmings. My swordfish was prepared to perfection – the chef recommended it “medium” and it was a good call, the centre being cooked just so: flaky, tender and juicy. I love Mediterranean cuisine, so the addition of green olives and tomatoes with an eggplant finish sent my taste buds to heaven and back. I embarrassingly inhaled the contents of my plate without taking a breath, finishing every savoury morsel without apology (sorry, not sorry). I glanced at my date, who was likewise invested in the devouring of his meal.

Our dessert was equally as delicious. I went with the caramel chocolate tart ($11), served with sliced bananas, whipped cream and crumbled sable breton (shortbread cookie). He selected the Key lime cheesecake ($10), with coconut dacquoise (dessert cake), lime gel and meringue. Decadence.

Ave is upscale (I mean, seriously, it’s at the Kimpton!) but the vibe is contemporary and casual. It’s perfect for a romantic evening or a night out with friends — the atmosphere lending itself to whatever you have in mind (but perhaps you should ask for a little more private seating if you’re so inclined). The prices are on the higher end, not necessarily compatible with the quantity on your plate, but certainly in line with the quality.

Gratuity: 16% added to the bill

Ave website


Category: Dinner, Golden Spoons Review, Hotel

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