SNOWMASS VILLAGE --Nothing makes a dining-out experience more enjoyable than knowing you will be in good hands from the moment you step through the door. It's an experience built on quality, consistency and flavor; a trusting relationship whittled from the chef's fingers to our hungry mouths, and a bond that can be forever broken with just one tiny mistake. Perhaps now more than ever, we dine out according to the experiences we've gathered and stored along the way: the great ones that have left us drooling for more, and the not-so-great ones that have left us stroking the bathroom toilet in the wee hours of the night. So, what's the common denominator between the two? The chef, of course.
For almost two years now, chef Nemanja Ilic has graced Snowmass with worldly creations backed by homestyle flavor at his Little Mammoth Steakhouse next to the Village Mall. Serving up an extensive list of entrees, from lamb shanks, to schnitzels and filet mignon, to refreshing seafood options like ahi tuna served with stuffed avocado, pistachio eggplant and mango-papaya sauce, it's obvious Nemanja knows good taste.
And, because it had been a while since I had a go-around with Nemanja's delicious plates, and because it's in my best interest to get to the bottom of his authentic craft, I paid him a visit to see what he had new in store this winter.
The dish: surf and turf Carpaccio
Snowmass Sun: Can you tell me a little bit about this dish?
Chef Nemanja: It's a filet mignon and diver scallop carpaccio served on a Himalayan salt slab with capers, olives, pomegranate seeds and arugula, dressed with a little olive oil, balsamic reduction, Parmesan and a fresh lemon and lime slice.
SS: I have never seen a carpaccio served on a salt slab like you did here. Can you tell me what the purpose of the salt slab is, and what it does for the flavor of the dish?
CN: It comes from the age-old process of naturally curing meets. Obviously, not one palate is the same as the other, which means some prefer more salt than others, and so on. My purpose in this dish is to lay thin slices of beef and scallops over the chilled salt slab to simply initiate the curing process. Once the dish reaches the table, customers can decide how long, or in this case how salted, they prefer their carpaccio.
SS: In many ways, the salt slab brings more flavor than simply sprinkling sea salt over a piece of meat or seafood. Do you use the slab for any other dishes on the menu?
CN: Yes I do. Probably the most popular are the ribeye caps, which many know as the most juicy, tender parts of the cut.
SS: How would you describe the style and influence behind Little Mammoth Steakhouse, and where exactly did your food knowledge come from?
CN: I would say Little Mammoth is a warm mountain spot balancing American steakhouse and Old World European creativity. The European creativity derives from my home country of Serbia, and most of my food knowledge derives from over 20 years of cooking experience on cruise ships traveling the world.
SS: Aside from your great dishes, is there anything else you are excited about this winter?
CN: Yes. Along with the dishes we offer a full bar stocked with a global selection of wine and spirits, and we look forward to hosting live music throughout the season where we hope everyone will come to enjoy a great time.