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French Kiss

Simple pleasures add up to a perfect meal at Aix.

That concentration of flavors is a hallmark of the cuisine of Southern France, and the roasted chicken provided another fine example of it. "Lacquered" in lemon and herbs, which did indeed give the skin a shiny sheen, the moist bird was as comforting as the oven-warmed, tile-lined kitchen of a typical home in Provence. The split chicken surrounded potatoes roasted until they had the crunchy, golden crust of hash browns and centers so soft they were reminiscent of pasta, as well as a braised mirepoix, the traditional French mixture of onions, carrots and celery tossed with herbes de Provence (a varying blend of dried rosemary, sage, marjoram, savory, basil, fennel and lavender) and sautéed in butter. Often mirepoix is used as a base for soups or sauces; here it had been coated in the bird's juices until the vegetables were saturated with the oily essences of lemon and chicken.

Also soothing was the dreamy, creamy polenta that came with the roasted rack of lamb: juicy chops slicked with an intriguing demi-glace sparked by spearmint and cardamom, which moved this dish farther along the Mediterranean. The sauce worked beautifully, though, because the kitchen had employed a light touch with the cardamom -- a little goes a long way with this pungent relative of ginger -- and created an exemplary demi, reducing it to a thick glaze that clung to the tender lamb. Aix also did a great job with the filet mignon, which was grilled to a flawless medium-rare and smothered in a deep, darkly flavored bordelaise sauce; the sweet-potato gratin on the side was part upscale Thanksgiving, part down-home comfort food.

The salmon, seared until just done and sitting atop a ragout of vegetables and an artichoke-kissed aioli (along with a creamy carrot purée that Wolcott says she threw in on a whim), was both deceptively simple and ultimately addictive. So was the red snapper, salted and seared so that the skin was crispy and sharply flavored while the center of the fillet was luxuriously supple and moist; it came with slightly bitter wilted greens and plush cranberry beans. Even the vegetarian Provençal-style polenta was a crowd-pleaser. Although not as creamy as the side with the lamb, the polenta had a soft, almost silky texture; the subtle bitterness of braised endive and the sweetness of caramelized onions, sweet-and-sour cherries and a sugary beet jus added a yin-yang of tongue-teasing tastes.

A room of one's own: Rachel Wolcott (left) and Cyd Anderson brought Aix to Denver.
Anna Newell
A room of one's own: Rachel Wolcott (left) and Cyd Anderson brought Aix to Denver.

Location Info

Map

Aix

719 e. 17th ave.
Denver, CO 80203

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Central Denver

Details

303-831-1296
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday
5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Wild-mushroom and goat cheese tart: $10
Lobster Napoleon: $12
Seared foie gras: $13
Wild-mushroom soup: $9
Roasted chicken: $21
Roasted rack of lamb: $28
Grilled filet mignon: $26
Seared salmon: $24
Provençal-style polenta: $16
Seared red snapper: $19
Double chocolate torte: $9
Cheese platter: $14

719 East 17th Avenue

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The only way to follow up such sumptuous entrees was with a sumptuous dessert. Aix delivered with a double-chocolate torte, hot from the oven and gushing a thick, dark chocolate goo that was oh-my-God good. Suffering only by comparison was a delightful cheese platter -- Aix gets its cheeses from the two best shops in town, the Truffle and St. Kilian's Cheese Shop -- that on one visit featured some killer Spanish options, served with toasted baguette slices and dried apricots.

Aix, by the way, is pronounced "aches" -- which is how our stomachs felt after we ate way too much there. But those pains were a small price to pay for the pleasures of Aix.

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