By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
It's a work in progress, according to Master (all three of them, actually — Charlie and his parents, Mel and Jane), but a good start. With their space bracketed by Table 6 (609 Corona Street) and Fruition (1313 East Sixth Avenue), which are both doing the same sort of New American/French technique/Western States cuisine, Mel's has to do something to set itself apart. There was a time last year when, after having dinners, drinks and snacks at all three places over the course of two weeks, I couldn't remember which place had done the flatiron steak, which offered the tagliatelle a là Harry's Bar, which was serving the roasted chicken and new potatoes. New American cuisine may grant a chef a lot of latitude for playing with flavors and ingredients, but it also offers a ready temptation for copy-catting. And really, does Denver need another place doing beef carpaccio or sliders? No, it does not.
Fortunately, Charlie already has chef Carla Berent in the kitchen — ex of Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben's, more recently of Agave Grill, where she was sous to chef Chad Clevenger (who might or might not wind up owning Mel's Greenwood Village). Berent was steeped in the American regional/Southwestern fusion scene of her former kitchens, and she brings that — along with a healthy dose of her own ideas about American cookery, ingredients and procurement of supplies — to the Anti-Bistro's board, currently a conglomeration of Mel's Continental classics cut with a feisty streak of Americana. I had a great plate of calamari there last week, tuned high and spicy with an Asian/Southwestern note of singing spice, and one of the better tapenades I've tasted in a long time. And while Berent's still young in her post and in the throes of menu/concept/management changes, she seems to be riding the curl pretty well: She even managed to muscle Charlie into going to the farmer's market with her on the morning after my dinner there, with a detour to Alameda Square for a little dim sum at Super Star and a visit to Pacific Ocean Marketplace. Lucky him.
Leftovers: Last week, Brasserie Felix (3901 Tennyson Street) opened after successfully making it through a series of friends-and-family dinners without any significant disasters. Felix is setting itself up as a solidly 2/3 brasserie, offering two meals a day plus brunches on the weekends. And while the version of the menu that I saw over the weekend was not the most thrilling document in the world (a fairly standard board of soup l'oignon, croque monsieur and steak frites), it was exactly what owners Danielle Diller and Gilles Fabre promised it would be — a straight-up neighborhood brasserie of the Parisian model. I can't wait to check it out.
8086 W. Bowles Ave.
Littleton, CO 80123
Region: Southwest Denver Suburbs
But there's sad news in northwest Denver, too. On July 31, North Star Brewing Company, at 3200 Tejon Street, pulled its last pint. As of Friday, Kyle Carstens's beer-and-tater-tot joint was dark, the shades pulled on all the windows, the neon off. I'd called the place twice in the previous week, trying to track down the rumor that the place was shutting down, and both times I got quote/unquote employees on the phone who were so hammered they could barely speak — beyond claiming that they had no idea what I was talking about. But a sign on the door now proclaims, "Closed 4 Good. Gone Fishin'."