Denver Restaurant Week: Cool River Cafe

Grandiose space, four-course menu but underwhelming food

My husband and I and two friends — one a Boulder neighbor, one from Denver — went to Cool River Cafe for Denver Restaurant Week yesterday evening. We three Boulderites were willing to make the trek to the Denver Tech Center because it was a Saturday, with less traffic to contend with than on a weeknight. Our Denver friend, who lives in Lowry, was happy to have a short, non-freeway drive. We also picked it because it is a very pricey restaurant, and $24.80 per person for four courses was a good opportunity to try it out without breaking the bank.
 The huge, two-story space topped by a glowing dome conveys the sense of luxury and sumptuousness. Seating is either in wooden booths or at tables. We got there before the big DRW crush and scored a mezzanine booth, which is excellent for conversation. Perhaps for server convenience (and something of a design trend these days), booths are are up a step from the dining room floor. None of us is tall, and I, at least, felt as if I needed a phone book to sit on. Should I have aksed for a booster seat?
Dramatic domed ceiling is the decorative focal point for grandiose Cool River Cafe.
Cool River is known for its lively bar secene and entertainment, but we were either out of earshot or it was suspended for restaurant week — also good for conversation. The service was so-so. The water was poured quickly, but the bread — two warm loaves pierced, Excaliber-style with serrated knives – took a while to be delivered.
The  DRW format there is one crab cake per person, one salad per person, a choice of  three entrées and two desserts. My husband doesn’t care for blue cheesse and asked for his salad without it. After a considerable wait a manager (or so I think, because he was wearing a suit) brought four salads, all with blue cheese. He noticed immediately and said it would be exchanged for one without. That replacement took so long that the other three of us had finished our salads
I tried photographing each course and each item, but I didn’t really succeed. I don’t know how I mis-set the controls so badly, but some images were washed out, some were almost black, some were unsharp, so this is an incomplete photo record — and uploading these lousy images is taking far too long. And I can’t get this post to line-space properly either. Sorry for the tech challenge, but if I were you, I wouldn’t run out to eat here anyway.
Crab cake — more breadstuff than crab.
Coffee-rubbed rib-eye, with garlic smashed potatoes that, alas, got washed out in this photo.

Here’s the restaurant’s entire DRW menu:

Southwestern crab cake with lemon butter sauce

III Forks Salad – Mixed baby greens tossed with maple walnut vinaigrette, topped with sliced Granny Smith apples, toasted pecans and Point Reyes bleu cheese

Entrée (choice of one each)
Devil Creek Shrimp – Four jumbo shrimp stuffed with pepper jack cheese, wrapped in bacon and basted with a chipotle barbeque sauce; served with basmati rice and matchstick vegetables
5-oz. Steak Oscar – Filet served over asparagus, topped with lump crab and hollandaise sauce; served with garlic smashed potatoes
Coffee Ribeye – 8-oz. coffee-rubbed ribeye with crispy Salado onions and port wine demi-glace; served with garlic smashed potatoes

Dessert (choice of one each)|
Chocolate mousse cake

Price check: I’m not going to post all the prices, but on regular dinner menu, there is only one entree under $20. The most expensive is a $40.95 rack of lamb — and side items are an additional $6.95. The other two Cool River Cafes are in Texas, and I believe they charge Texas-size prices.

Cool River Cafe on Urbanspoon