We went with branzino: two seared fillets served skin side up and plunked upon a bed of lightly curried lentils, braised celery stalks, and an amazingly ethereal parsnip purée. It was disappointing that the plate was absent advertised parsnip chips, which I would have gladly swiped from my wife's plate. She is not nearly as big a fan of that sweet root vegetable as I.

Just as well — two giant double chops of Colorado lamb were more than enough to tackle. And they were the best chops I've had since, well, I really can't recall. Slow-roasted and meltingly tender, they tasted like the lamb equivalent of prime ribs of beef (which is, in essence, what they are). Beneath the chops was another purée of pure softness, this one culled from eggplant and paired with tenderly grilled eggplant slices. Completing the plate were cubes of "Greek yogurt jelly," whose soft tofu-textured squares were spicily dusted with harissa.

The Villa will be a killa to your pocketbook. Soups are $17 and $18, which is way high (even granting that one will pay more for this sort of quality, service, and ambiance). Our appetizers were $19 (carpaccio) and $23 (tuna), and entrées run from $40 to $50, but these courses (especially starters) were memorable enough to be worth the money — relatively speaking, that is. Desserts by Parisian-trained pastry chef Luc Buisson were very good, yet at $19 each, they probably represent the worst deal here. At that price, they should be beyond very good and beyond excellent; they should be extraordinary.

billwisserphoto.com
Seared branzino sea bass fillets on a bed of curried lentils and celery stalks.
billwisserphoto.com
Seared branzino sea bass fillets on a bed of curried lentils and celery stalks.

No way I was going to invest that kind of dough in what is described as "vanilla bean crème brûlée," although there is no reason to think it would not be eminently creamy. We likewise skipped the profiterole pyramid — also a bit prosaic-sounding for $19. Instead, we indulged in "lemon three ways," which was something like a deconstructed lemon meringue pie. A buttery crust, arranged on the plate in strips lined with dabs of lemon curd, are interspersed with browned, meringue-like squiggles of lemon sabayon and a scoop of creamy lemon yogurt sorbet.

We enjoyed more an appropriately airy raspberry soufflé dessert, but the presentation upon clear, modern Plexiglas plateware was too incongruous with everything preceding it. The soufflé came creatively matched with lemon cookies, semifrozen domes of Earl Grey tea jelly, and a tantalizing quenelle of passion fruit/white chocolate sorbet, whose latter ingredient was subtly woven in with the fruit.

At meal's end, we were each brought a plate containting a quartet of tasty petits fours. Thoughtful gestures such as this, along with meticulous attention to detail, make dining at any of Barton G. Weiss's three restaurants something special (Barton G. and Prelude being the others). The Villa is the one to turn to when you want something really special.

Or at least it was for a while. After our visits, we found out chef Albertson was moving on. The sous chef will take over until a new toque is tapped within the next few weeks.

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