Avalon's Web site describes its approach as: contemporary global cuisine at moderate prices served in a casual, intimate atmosphere. Chef Q. Derks plays with several regional cooking styles and flavors ranging from Mexican to Thai to Mediterranean. The menu changes seasonally, and with fall approaching I make the following observations of her current menu. The Dallas Duck ($16.95) puts a Tex-Mex spin on a boneless duck breast, using a tomatillo-poblano sauce, and siding it with a goat cheese and black bean quesadilla. The Bangkok Chicken ($13.95) relies on a Thai paste and chilled carrot and cucumber relish to cover the Asian connection. This relish is also employed in the Asian Beef Salad ($8.95).
There were some disappointments, especially among the appetizers. The Southwest Gazpacho ($2.95) amounted to little more than a bowl of spicy salsa. The Conch Fritters ($4.95) sounded promising, but these savory hush puppies were punctuated by some awfully tough conch meat. The highlights for me were the Summer Crab Cakes ($18.95). Chef Derks doesn't skimp on the crabmeat. The cakes are sauced with a Bloody Mary mayo and sided by "fresh" corn on the cob and warm honey-Dijon potato salad. The corn was hard and the kernels were very small, suggesting that it wasn't mature. The two plump, pan-fried crab cakes mitigated this minor letdown though. I was skeptical about the mayonnaise, but it didn't overpower but added a nice hint of tang and spice.
Overall, the food is tasty and robust. While the menu comprises entrees with wide-ranging geographical influence, nothing that I sampled was too far off of the beaten path. To be honest, I'd enjoy seeing Chef Derks head a little further into the esoteric in ingredients and preparation.
The staff is good at adapting to their clientele. While the bar-staff was hopping and several of the wait-staff were buzzing around, our waitress quickly dropped into the proper gear and allowed us to linger while she efficiently turned the tables around us. More importantly, she didn't display the miffed attitude that some servers will when they have a table parked for hours.
As the night wears on, the tenor of the room changes from who's coming to dinner to who's coming home with me tonight. It's hard to play both of these parts, but Avalon is doing a good job at feeding the parents and clearing them out before the kids come to play. It's a pretty seamless transition around 10:30 or 11 o'clock, and it's fun to watch the chinos on the way out the door brush by the pierced navels on the way in.
The late-night crowd is benefited by a very reasonably priced wine list with several by-the-glass choices, as well as an extensive import and microbrew beer selection and a full bar. The atmosphere is at once a bit refined and a little devious, good for nightcaps. I suggest that you play both ends against the middle: dinner at 8 p.m. , dessert at 9 p.m., aperitifs at 10 p.m. and one for the road at 11 p.m. This schedule will allow you to take in Avalon's complete range of possibility. S
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