By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
Fueling the rumors was the fact that two days before the trap-cleaning, word got out that chef Tobias Burkhalter -- a veteran of Le Central who'd taken over the kitchen after former exec Yoann Lardeux was let go last month -- had gone AWOL, leaving Poivre short one chief and full of confused Indians. True, Burkhalter was gone -- but he'd spoken to Colantonio early that Saturday, letting him know that he had to fly back to Switzerland immediately for a family emergency. He then informed his crew, apologized and left. Burkhalter's guys cooked through weekend service without him, and by Monday morning, Colantonio was talking with Michel Wahaltere(late of the Ninth Door and currently putting together a new Spanish/ French/Italian tapas restaurant in Boulder). On Tuesday, Wahaltere agreed to come on board as a consulting chef to see Poivre through what Colantonio is expecting to be a very busy holiday season.
And by last Wednesday, things at Poivre were pretty much back to business as usual, according to Colantonio -- although "usual" is a relative judgment in this industry. New chefs are being interviewed for Burkhalter's spot, and in the meantime, Wahaltere is a seasoned pro who's accustomed to working through such complications. He's also French, and Poivre's decidedly Froggish menu will give the man a chance to cook like a native for a while after several years of slogging through Spanish and Italian menus.
Leftovers: Two blocks from the old home of Rincón Tropical, at 2413 West 32nd Avenue, work is moving forward on Duo, the new joint being brought to us by Stephanie and Keith Bonin, who already own Cafe Colore, at 1512 Larimer Street. The space is still crawling with contractors, and the Bonins aren't yet ready to announce a concrete opening date, but mid-October is the target. John Broening(late of Brasserie Rouge) is on the books as executive chef, with Chris Dougherty (from Swimclub32, on the chichi side of 32nd) on board as his sous and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom (Broening's girlfriend, who worked with him at Udi's after Rouge closed) doing pastries and some consulting. The menu will be "seasonal contemporary American," says Stephanie Bonin. "Familiar food, because when you say 'comfort food,' everyone thinks Southern."
Frankly, I don't know what to make of "seasonal contemporary American," either, so I ask for specifics. Stephanie gives me a quick rundown: grilled pork chops with buttermilk mashed potatoes and mustard greens, simple grilled fish with lemon and capers, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato-apricot chutney in place of Campbell's soup. "I don't have a culinary background," she explains, "but I have a passion and a background in my family's kitchen, where either my mom or my dad were cooking every night."
That apron-string education will be put to the test in the coming months, because Stephanie will be spending time in the galley right alongside Broening and Dougherty. "Keith will still be in the kitchen at the Cafe," she says of the spot they bought four years ago from the Momo family. "But we felt that someone should always be in this kitchen as well."
Meanwhile, last month the Momos opened Via in the former home of Brasserie Rouge (at 1801 Wynkoop Street). And now comes news that another Italian place will be moving into what had been the home of Adega, just down the street, at 1700 Wynkoop. Alessandro and Sara Carollo, who own the sister restaurants Venice (5946 South Holly Street) and Chianti (5121 South Yosemite Street), are bringing their successful suburban act downtown. Much of the charm of the Carollos' strip-mall restaurants lies in their unexpected excellence, how the crowds spill out onto the sidewalks on busy nights, how there's nothing quite like them in those neighborhoods. To me, these places seem like what would have happened had the brothers' little restaurant in Big Night made it in a big way after the credits rolled -- but somehow I find it difficult to imagine Primo working the burners in a kitchen down in LoDo. Secondo, maybe, but never Primo.
Still, stranger things have happened on this particular corner, which has swallowed restaurants both lame and luminous. Now the Carollos are looking at a late-October opening for their Venice.
Carmine's on Penn (92 South Pennsylvania Street) has finally reopened after a major renovation, which means yet another Italian spot competing for stomachs. While Club 404(404 Broadway) never closed for even a day, they somehow managed to renovate the larger dining room, adding big windows that make the place a lot brighter. The printed menus are new, too, but the chalkboards still list dozens of each day's specials, and the smaller dining area with the bar still has its classic dive feel. Club 404 celebrated its new look last week, but Jerry Feld's place always looks good to us.