South Metro restaurant serves up Mexican & Spanish classics
Back in 1987, well-traveled chef/partner Dan Lukens developed recipes and wrote the menu for the then-new Las Brisas Restaurant. He refined popular Tex-Mex and border foods with specialties from coastal Mexico, plus Mediterranean and Southwestern influences.
His pioneering menu featured such delectable dishes as enchiladas de mariscos (seafood encased in a flour tortilla with a flavorful chipotle cream sauce) and pollo con cilantro, perennial favorites that have graced the menu since the beginning, and was using the smoked jalapeño called chipotle before it went mainstream.
Loyal, long-time customers visit Las Brisas especially for such reliable, predictable dishes that have hardly changed over the years. Toddlers who once sat in Las Brisas’ highchairs have grown up and now perch on barstools, sipping the restaurant’s punchy, potent margaritas made with fresh-squeezed lime juice before being seated. At the table, many of these regulars order time-honored, taste-tested dishes that their parents use to enjoy.
The food chain at Las Brisas is unbroken because Lukens was still captaining the kitchen when Nico Marban came to work there more than 19 years ago. His first step on the kitchen ladder was as a dishwasher. He became a cook, learned Lukens’s techniques and recipes and is now top toque. When Marban walked in the door, waiter Ken Young had already been on the job for a year. He’s still there too.
Even as food quality remained high over the years, the dining room began to show its age. Deferred maintenance and a serious illness in the former partnership group took their toll. Matteo Mazzullo-Revel, who came aboard in 2009 as the restaurant’s general manager, and Darell Schmidt, who developed the strip center in 1984 and still owns it, are the current partners.
The present team has set about fixing those cosmetic flaws, starting with lightening the wall colors and ripping up the tired crimson carpet. Bigger projects are in the works: Rebuilding the water feature. Upgrading the restrooms. Turning the underutilized patio area into a year-round private dining room. And best of all, creating a rooftop deck area with killer views. If all goes according to plan, construction should start this fall, and when complete, it will be Greenwood Village’s first rooftop dining venue.
The fine, reliable fare is not the only incentive to visit Las Brisas. Nightly happy hour is actually a generous four hours (3 to 7 p.m.) with half-price tapas and $2 well drinks. Wednesday is ladies’ night with $3 margs all evening long. On Thursday evenings, the talented Tony David performs danceable classics including pop standards, country and rock-and-roll classics from the ‘50s to present that draws South Metro singles. And the kitchen sends out its classics as well.
This piece was originally written for Out of Denver Magazine.