Tag Archives: new Denver restaurant

A New Restaurant in the New Year

Corner House is pioneering restaurant in Jefferson Park neighborhood

P1010580Until I found my way through the maze of small streets in one of those eclectic west-of-I-25 neighborhoods in search of a soon-to-open restaurant, I’m not sure that I’d ever even heard of Jefferson Park. My four-wheel wandering was the result of my getting off Interstate at 20th Street (Exit 212c) rather than continuing to 20th Avenue/23rd Avenue (Exit 211). Silly me!

I was eager to see what the new Corner House would be like, though in my challenge in finding it, I spaced on the fact that it was the debut of super-chef Matt Selby’s latest — one with a new set of business partners. I had eaten his dishes numerous times at Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben’s Food Service, respectively in LoDo and Uptown, but we had never met. I didn’t recognize him when he came table-hopping among invited media guests and was embarrassed, but he was gracious as he spoke about his excitement at being able to do more cooking and less organizing.

He told me “I was born to cook. I got to a point where I wasn’t cooking anymore.” He isn’t fond of such buzzwords as “seasonal” and “local,” that’s what his tight menu will be — fewer than a dozen dishes winnowed from an initial list of 30 or more. The Corner House’s first choice of sources, both for foods and beverages, is Colorado. The second is other domestic. The third is imported — include prosciutto and Manchego cheese, which are always imports.

Matt Selby.
Matt Selby.

When it opens on Friday, the 11th, The Corner House will be a breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and snacks sort of place that every emergent neighborhood really needs to continue its transition into trendiness and gentrification. The congenial space combines gleaming, stainless kitchen appliances with recycled, repurposed and reused materials for a rustic, green look. We had the opportuity to sample items from the dinner menu, a small list with interesting riffs on familiar dishes — and mostly portioned to be shareable.

Sean Kellly's addictive Roasted Almonds done with olive oil rosemary, chili and garlic are Matt Selby's homage to his role model.
Sean Kellly’s addictive Roasted Almonds done with olive oil rosemary, chili and garlic are Matt Selby’s homage to his role model.
PMP  is an assemblage of prosciutto and manchego atop Justn Vineyards Obtuse Port.. The ham and the cheese are the rare imports on this Colorado-centric menu.
PMP is an assemblage of prosciutto and manchego somehow suspended atop a glass of Justin Vineyards Obtuse Port.. The ham and the cheese are rare imports on this Colorado-centric menu.
Tuna Poke Bowl made with sushi rice, avocado and wakame -- perhaps a tribute to bar manager/
Tuna Poke Bowl made with sushi rice, avocado and wakame — perhaps a tribute to bar manager/”ocktail magician” Gerard Collier who comes from Hawaii.
Yuzu Kampachi Brule, a lovely Hawaiian fish with olives citrus slices, smoked salt and jalapenos.
Yuzu Kampachi Brule, a lovely Hawaiian fish with olives citrus slices, smoked salt and jalapenos.
The rich Chocolate Duck Egg Creme Brulee may not be especially photogenic, but it is silky/crispy and delicious.
The rich Chocolate Duck Egg Creme Brulee may not be especially photogenic, but it is silky/crispy and delicious.

Eater, a national foodie site, included Corner House in its roundup of the the country’s 40 “most anticipated restaurants” opening this year — the only Colorado restaurant the site is anticipating.

Price check: At dinner, plates and bowls, $6-$14; desserts, $6 and $7.

Urbanspoon does not yet list Corner House, but it is at 2240 Clay Street, Denver; 720-1895.

Ambling into Ambria

Independent restaurant takes root on 16th Street Mall

Ambria, a contemporary “Mediterramerican” restaurant, hosted its VIP opening on November 14. Not that I’m espcially important, but I was invited. I couldn’t attend because I was in New Zealand. It took me a month to get there, and yesterday, I finally ambled in — not for a large sampling of their food, but for a glass of wine and a small plate. The community table near the bar was a perfect spot. The restaurant’s space was once Ling & Louie’s, and I want to lead the cheering for another chef-driven independent restaurant replacing a marketing-driven chain “concept.”

The chef/owner is Jeremy Kittelson, whom I met at the opening of the Restaurant Avondale at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon a few years ago. Avondale has now given way to Cima, a Latin restaurant, but that’s another story. Kittleson’s creds are sterling: Scottsdale Culinary Institute followed by stints in such acclaimed eateries as Vincent’s on Camelback in Arizona, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Vong in Chicago, Blackbird also in Chicago and Tapawingo in Michigan. Then, lucky for us, Kittleson headed west and into Vail Valley orbit of Thomas Salamunovich, first at Larkspur and then at Avondale. In the broadest georgraphic sense, he circled Denver and now has opened his own place on the Mall. Independent restaurants dominate Larimer Square, and it’s a good thing that they are now rounding the corner onto 16th Street itself.

Ambria's open kitchen spans the back of the restaurant.

Ambria is a place that feels comfortable, as if it has been there for a long time. Maybe it’s all the wood. Maybe it’s the warm tones of brick red walls, maybe it’s the ceiling fixtures that look like translucent fabric flowers, maybe it’s the diaphonous ceiling-to-floor curtains here and there in the dining room and maybe it’s the welcoming vibe. A Wednesday evening in winter was relatively a quiet time to sit and relax over a good glass of wine. I only wanted one thing to eat but had a hard time making a selection from the enticing items on the menu. I ordered a Torres, Viña Esmerelda Muscadet/Gewürztraminer blend, which I’d never heard of, let alone tasted. Ambria’s wines by the glass are all available in 3-ounce or 6-ounce glasses and the half or full bottle –a  commendable and customer-friendly option.

The evening menu is divided into sections for “Vegetables,” “Fish/Seafood” and “Meats/Poultry,” with appetizers, small plates and entrées under each. Logical and again, customer-friendly. Making food decision was difficult because so much looked good, but curiosity won out, so I ordered the chicken bouillabaisse. Zoe, the waitress, suggested that I have some bread while I was waiting. She enthused that it was the “best bread ever,” and when she told me she was from the San Francsico area rather from say, the San Luis, Colorado, she had cred. The bread was good — softer than I usually like but with a fine texture, a chewy-enough crust and softened butter sprinkled with a few grains of sea salt.

The bread “basket” is a bowl, but nothing at all like a break bowl in which soup is sometimes served. Soft butter sprinkled with a few grains of sea salt is alongside.
Chicken bouillabaisse has all those herby, allium-y, tomato-y flavors associated with the treasured seafood soup from the South of France but without the fishiness. Toasted bread with a very flavorful rouille comes along side, rather than floating, where the bread stays crisp.

Price check: At dinnertime, appetizers, $6-$13; small plates, $5-$9; entrées.

Ambria on Urbanspoon

Charlie Palmer’s District Meats Opening on Monday

District Meats fills Big Game’s big space and big shoes

A year and a half ago, I was part of the throng at the preview party for a new restaurant at 1631 Wazee Street in LoDo. The restaurant was Big Game, a sports bar on steroids — huge and loud, with several mammoth screens, Wii games and the feeling of a very fancy frat house party. In short, it was planned as a LoD0 happening place seemingly aimed at young males. The owners were Jeffrey Chodorow of the TurnTable Restaurant Group and his 20-something son Zach, who seemed both the target demographic as well as the designated manager.

Chodorow Senior’s place in American restaurant lore was as Rocco de Spirito’s partner who had a very public falling out on “The Restaurant,” which ran on NBC in 2003-04. Chodorow Junior’s tenure running a LoDo restaurant was brief. ABout 15 months after it opened, Big Game suddenly closed. I don’t know whether there were financial problems, whether Junior just got bored being a Denver restaurateur or something else, but poof! I was gone.

Enter Charlie Palmer, a highly respected chef and restaurateur who took over the vast space, subdivided it smartly and is opening his 14th restaurant there on Monday.  It won’t be another Aureole, an expensive fine-dining original that launched Palmer’s American Progressive culinary style or any of his rsetaurants, hotels, floating restaurants aboard Seaborn’s luxury cruise ships or hotels. It will be the one and only District Meats,  loosely inspired by hearty  mid-century roadhouse fare. Palmer said that he will be around a fair amount during the launch period but less so once it gets going — except in winter, because he and his teenage sons like to ski. Jeff Russell will be he chef in charge.

The grill line in the semi-open kitchen has been pretty much inherited from Big Game.

It was with a bit of déja vue that I attended District Meats’ Thursday launch party, which was considerably quieter and less jammed than Big Game’s had been. Well, maybe not quieter near the remaining super-size screen where the Broncos game was being shown. The event featured drinks and passed hors c’oeuvre  some of which appear on the regular menu. Below is  some of what the kitchen produced, most of which I didn’t to taste. The waitstaff was so very efficient that they moved almost everything out as soon as took a picture:

Marinated olive medley that can be seasoned to taste.
A pasta called garganelli with veal, sage, heirloom carrots and lemon zest.
Sliders of some sort. They were whisked by very quickly.
This is probably a bisque or cream of something soup --or maybe a dessert. I don't know, because I didn't get a chance to taste it or even ask.
House-made chips topped with tuna (I think). A waiter hustled the plate away right after I snapped the picture.
Veal and ricotta meatballs with Fontina cheese on a polenta pillow.
Rich pork pate (which the waiter called it) or terrine (which is on the menu).

The District Meats menu looks intriguing, and hopefully, I’ll get back sometime to have more than a nibble. Having dined at Aureole in Las Vegas several years ago (for a convention; I’m not a gambler), I have mega-confidence in what a Charlie Palmer restaurant can produce — even at a more casual, less expensive place. And even though  the waitstaff tended to rush past me or pull platters away without offering me a bite, Palmer did spare a moment for me. He said that he continue to explore more off-cuts of meats — flavorful shanks, trotters, shoulder, organ meats — to keep the menu interesting and prices moderate. And that’s good news in LoDo.

Price check: Snack/Share, $2-$9; starters, $7-$12; $18-$32 (most under $25, plus a Kansas City strip steak for two at $62); burgers and sandwiches, $12-$13; sides, $7-$9.

District Meats on Urbanspoon

Le Grand Bistro Opening Today in Denver

French restaurant slots into Baur’s space

Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar opens today in Denver, taking over the atmospheric space vacated after Baur’s Ristorante closed. It is not billed as a “continental’ restaurant or an “international” restaurant or a something else “with French influences.” It identifies itself as a French restaurant — not fancy French haute cuisine, but regular everyday French.

Veteran restaurateur Robert Thompson (Jonesy’s EatBar, Stingray, The Horseshoe Lounge and Bar Car and the late Brasserie Rouge, where Jon Broening once cooked) avers that “Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar is nothing new. Instead, Le Grand Bistro is the recreation of Parisian bistros and brasseries from a time long passed. From our 125 year old mosaic tile floors to our smoky mirrors and oversized booth seating, Le Grand takes us back to an era when Moules Frites, a plate of cheese and ½ liter of your favorite French table wine was not a special event, but rather an everyday occurrence; or Everyday French.” Sounds a lot like Brasserie Rouge, doesn’t it?

Captain of Le Grand Bistro’s kitchen is Serge Romero — or is it Sergio Romero?; the restaurant’s website and social media outreach use them both. Romero’s roots are in Taos, New Mexico, where “Top Chef” Season 5 winner Hosea Rosenberg grew up. There, Sergio (or Serge) worked under Joseph Wrede at the famed and sadly missed Joseph’s Table. Wrede was one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs  of 2000. In Denver, he was  nominated for Denver Magazine’s Rising Culinary Star honors in 2010 while serving as executive chef of Argyll Gastropub.

Le Grand - Bistro & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon