Larimer Square restaurant’s innovative combos & sparkling tastes
Denver Restaurant Week 2011 ended this evening after a two-week run. Chefs, waitstaff and everyone else at the participating restaurants is presumbly in recuperation mode, but I’m still coasting on the pleasure of dining at the last two restaurants I visited. On Wednesday, my friend and MileHighOnTheCheap.com partner Laura and I rendezvoused at TAG, the Larimer Square eatery that has coined the phrase, “continental social food.” With inspiration from cuisines of the Americas, Asia and Europe, the name is not restricted to one particular continent but implies a high degree of sophistication and cultural cross-fertizilation.
The name reflects owner/chef Troy Atherton Guard’s initials, but there’s a double meaning too becausetag is a game, and there’s also a playfulness both to the decor and the sprightly menu that contrasts colors, textures and flavors in every dish. Decor-wise, there’s a bulldog portrait hung on a brick wall, a toy bulldog over the front entrance, a bulldog with a crown on the menu and perhaps other bulldogs that I didn’t spot. It is hommage to Guard’s bulldog who is named (drum roll), Tag.
Tables in the main part of the restauant wrap around a tall, slim double-glass-sided wine cellar. At Aureole in Las Vegas, “wine angels” ride up and down in bossun’s chairs to retrieve wine from an even taller cellar. At TAG, they do it the old-fashioned way, using a ladder. There’s an open kitchen, minimalist black tables and interesting pendant lamps hanging from the very high ceiling.
Denver Restauarant Week Menu
I had never dined at TAG before, so I can’t relate the special three-course DRW menu to the regular one, but the that might be irregular too because it’s not available on the website. which implies that it often changes. The restaurant week menu reflected a wide range of inspirations as well as Kreativity and Kourage, because one of the first-course options was Kangaroo — not your usual Rocky Mountain fare.
The first course was called Inclination. In addition to our two choices, Petaluma chicken confit empanadas with bruléed avocado, smoked goat cheese and Tag mole was available. I was tempted to try that if only to tast bruléed avocado. We did have:
Deconstructed salad of Hawaiian ahi, Jerusalem artichokes, Persian lime and smoked aioli -- many influences in one dish.
Slices of tender kangaroo loin, cooked rare, on a base of kabocha squash and lemongrass gnocchi with Chinese black bean jus -- another cross-cultural combination.
The second course, called Temptation on the menu, featured two meats and a fish offering. The one we did not order was the center cut Yorkshire pork loin with scallion potato mash, long beans and chile pasilla sauce. We did order:
Colorado bison shortribs with sweet potato puree, Brussels sprouts, TAG pancetta and king pao butter.
Columbia River steelhead (a species that in Colorado is called rainbow trout) with quinoa, soy beans (out of the shell - hooray!), sunflower seeds and a sea of pureed pequillo peppers-plus.
Dessert was called Seduction on the menu. I would have called it Satisfaction, because satistified describes our feeling after we had cleaned our plates. White chocolate bread pudding with beet raspberry gel, ancho chile-chocolate crumble and crushed hazelnuts was the dessert that neither of us ordered. It appealed to me on many culinary creative levels, but I had several bread puddings in Alaska just last week, so I went for the semi-freddo instead.
A devilishly rich disk of nutella semi-freddo atop a black pepper cookie-like crust of the same size and a scoop of raspberry lemongrass sorbet were excellent but would have looked lost on the plate, were it not for the chocolate swoosh and the sprinking of nutella powder.
East meets West in this picture-pretty assemblage of citrus almond spongecake cubes with jiggly pear gele, micro shiso and miso caramel.