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Kleinman and his crew rocked it through the weekend, then shifted gears and switched up the menu again last Monday: butter-poached tempura lobster with a corn-tomatillo gelée and yuzu, wasabi and miso Dippin' Dots; Merlot caviar with frozen thyme; sous-vide portabella and veal with melted tomato, brie and beet ribbon; an olive-oil cake with "dancing nutmeg." He doubled his numbers again. And when I talked to him late last week, he was staring down a Thursday-night book with a ten-top all wanting freak cuisine, another eight-top after the same, more twos and fours.
More hover-potatoes and dancing nutmeg for everyone.
Leftovers: Over at the Lowenstein project (2526 East Colfax Avenue) that houses the Tattered Cover and Twist & Shout, Udi's has pulled out, and Black Pearl doesn't look anywhere close to opening its second location there, but you can still get good food. That's because Neighborhood Flix, the independent theater that just opened, has a gourmet kitchen attached. And the chef is James Mazzio — former Best New Chef in the world (or close enough) for his work at 15 Degrees, the guy who brought Via back from the brink last year ("On the Block," April 5, 2007).
10600 Westminster Blvd.
Broomfield, CO 80020
Region: Northwest Denver Suburbs
"I absolutely loved the idea of taking movie food to the next level," Mazzio said when I got him on the phone, pre-service, in the Via kitchen last Thursday afternoon. "It's what our parents told us never to do, man: playing with your food." Mazzio is technically on board as a consultant, as he once was at Green Fine Salad Company, but he's not a guy who stands back, tosses out a few ideas and then collects a check. In his words, "I did what I always do — immerse myself in the coolest thing I think Denver needs."
He traveled. He ate at a lot of really crappy movie theater-restaurant combos where corn dogs and fries are considered revolutionary cuisine. And then he wrote a menu filled with the things he likes to eat when watching movies. "We're still trying to figure out some of the stuff," he told me, "but I basically took comfort foods and put them in, like, how I would cook at home." Comfort foods like "Crock Pot" pot roast with braised onions and carrots, Vietnamese egg rolls and chicken satay, Louisiana gumbo with dirty rice, sweet-potato fries with a ginger-sesame gastrique. "That one, I can't believe it," Mazzio admitted. "That's outselling popcorn." And not by a little. Two to one, some nights.
Mazzio is still smoothing operations at Flix, but he's already thinking about brightening up the winter menu at Via, maybe tinkering a little with the menu at Cucina Colore, the Cherry Creek restaurant that shares owners with Via and could use the attention ("The Conversation," August 23). He's busy, and he won't be slowing down anytime soon.
Even if he is just a consultant.
There's news at the 21-year-old Strings (1700 Humboldt Street). Noel Cunningham has brought in chef Aaron Whitcomb (ex of Adega and Table 6), who returned to Denver after a year in Chicago, where he worked under Grant Achatz at Alinea (very cool), then opened Room 21 as executive chef — a spot he bailed out of recently, and rather publicly. Whitcomb's also on the rolls at Mise en Place cooking school, doing a winter vegetables class, and he'll be writing a new winter menu for Strings (I'm guessing it's gonna be heavy on the vegetables), as well as a New Year's Eve menu.