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May is going to be a big month for Troy Guard.
And not just for Guard, who's currently standing post as exec chef at Nine75 and Emogène and also overseeing the Caribbean menu at Wings and Wraps, which opened at 4736 East Colfax Avenue, but also for his wife, Leigh Sullivan, for Leigh's dad Jim Sullivan, and for everyone else in the Sullivan restaurant empire who survived the shakeups caused by the closing of Mao at the beginning of the year.
On May 1, Guard's new menu will debut at Jet, in the space formerly known as the Luna Hotel, on the corner of 16th and Wazee. In a weird, life-imitating-art kind of deal, this boutique hotel-slash-bar-slash-lounge-slash-subterranean restaurant and doomed crêperie -- which has already seen enough problems in its first two turbulent years to fill an entire book on how not to make money in the hotel and restaurant business -- was recently picked up by those ink-stained wretches at Dining Out, the Colorado-based publisher of restaurant guides that has already established glossy beachheads in a half-dozen cities across the country. And kudos to Dining Out for realizing early that publishing a guide aboutrestaurants and actually running a restaurant are two very different things. There have been months of flirtation between the two camps -- the publishers-turned-hoteliers on one side, Sullivan & Co. on the other -- but in the end, the papers got signed, and Jet ended up with Guard and a hand-picked mercenary crew of Nine75 veterans to open its kitchen.
"Jet's coming along," Guard said when I talked to him last week, fresh from yet another all-day meeting at the hotel. He's pleased with the dining room (which will now have real table seating, unlike its first incarnation as Flow, which featured tall stools, banquettes and standing bar tables, but nowhere for a person to actually sit down and eat) and with the menu, which will offer about fifteen small plates, some of them designed specifically for Jet, others highlighting signature items from the menus at Nine75 and Ocean (which I'll get to in a minute).
What's more, Jet will also have Guard himself on the line, overseeing ops and making sure no one sets the place on fire -- which isn't a joke, because that almost happened when I was at Flow one night, getting a nice contact high from the pot smoke wafting from the kitchen and watching an ambulance carry away one of its cooks.
Unfortunately, Jet will only have Guard's undivided attention (well, mostly undivided, since he still has Nine75 and Emogène to worry about, plus plans for opening spinoffs of both) for about two weeks. Because on May 12, the hardest-working man in the restaurant business will be jumping out for the opening of Ocean in the old Mao space, at 201 Columbine Street. That's one day shy of Nine75's one-year anniversary: It opened last May 13 -- Friday the thirteenth, to be exact.
Ocean's focus will be seafood -- lots and lots of seafood. And Ocean's chef de cuisine is Javier Sanchez, an old hand who worked with Guard at Zengo and Tamayo and was most recently marking time in the kitchen at Zaidy's. And Mister Super Chef isn't going to be hurting for staff, either. With everything that's been going on in the Sullivan/Guard kingdom, the white-jackets in the kitchen "have really started to feel the fire," Guard told me. "These guys know that there's a lot of things happening. They want to move up."
While the interior space has been spruced up, the most interesting change is outside, where the entrance to Mao was once marked by several sets of gigantic hands holding torches. Those hands were cast from molds of Sullivan's own hands -- a display of narcissism so extreme that I couldn't help but be impressed. At Ocean, the torch-hands have been removed and replaced with new hands holding gigantic fish -- and again, they were cast from Sullivan's own humongous mitts.
Coming next: a life-sized bronze bust of Sullivan to be mounted right in the middle of the city permitting office, where restaurateurs will be able to rub it for luck.
For a small fee, of course.
The name game:Speaking of chefs with more addresses than eyes to watch over them, Kevin Taylor (Prima and Restaurant Kevin Taylor, both at Hotel Teatro; Kevin Taylor's at the Opera House and Palettes at the Denver Art Museum, which is scheduled to reopen this fall) has made a handshake agreement to open yet another operatic eatery (or three) in Central City.
Yup, Central City, the Paris of the High Country, where the slots are tight, the streets are steep and the house always wins.
Seriously, always. I've known nuns looser than the slots up there.
Taylor's latest enterprise is Kevin Taylor's Rouge at the Teller House -- a "modern steakhouse" that will operate through the summer in the historic onetime hotel, several-time casino. Rouge will be turning tables in the fine-dining room upstairs, while drinks, desserts and lighter fare will be served downstairs in the atrium and reopened Face Bar, which features that creepy Herndon Davispainting on the floor that the Central City glitterati swear is a tourist attraction. The Teller House's liquor license stretches to the garden next door, so Taylor also plans on trucking in two big tents and setting them up so that opera-goers can have somewhere pretty to retire to during intermission for pastries, petits fours and booze. And he'll be handling Central City's weekend salon performances, where Central City Opera cast members walk around singing while you have brunch. And then there's the catering schedule
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