Restaurant Review: Avant
El Bizcocho — Rancho Bernardo Inn’s famed and formal dining room — closed last fall after a 43-year run and was replaced this summer by Avant (as in “avant garde”).
If truth were a criterion in picking restaurant names, Avant is something of an overreach; the place could just as easily be called Here and Now. In décor and menu, the restaurant is not so much cutting edge as it is present tense.
Avant is bright, contemporary and casual, with a greatly expanded bar and an overall country club look. Whereas El Bizcocho imposed a dress code (long ago, ladies were required to wear skirts and, until recently, gentlemen were required to don jackets), Avant seems only to require that its patrons wear clothing.
Much of the menu is directed to those who want to graze rather than dine. There are multiple options of charcuterie, cheeses, flatbreads and oysters, as well as individual small plates that are aptly named because portions are indeed small. They include a soft-cooked egg, beef tartare and seared ahi. Among the best are pork confit and an excellent pate of duck and pistachio.
Less successful is the burrata wrapped in zucchini, which seems like a blind date between two ingredients that are nice but hopelessly mismatched.
Larger plates include fish, chicken, poultry, pork loin, rib-eye, beef tenderloin and a vegetable plate. Duck breast is good, and so is the lamb, though neither is particularly noteworthy.
All said, it’s easy to pick out the distinguishing characteristics of the look and the food at Avant: high quality, comfortably familiar and risk averse.
Patrons: A majority of diners are hotel guests, though area residents treat Avant as a local restaurant.
Service: Servers are intent on being helpful, but lack knowledge
of the menu.
Parking: Lots of on-site, free parking.
Noise: Surprisingly loud.
Special Diets: Multiple choices are available for vegetarians, vegans and the gluten intolerant.
Details: Open for dinner and Sunday brunch. Starters $7-$18, entrées $24-$32. Full bar. Rancho Bernardo Inn, 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive, Rancho Bernardo. 858-675-8550.
Restaurant Reviews: By Stephen Silverman Photography by Martin Mann