Rachel Kesley
WaterCourse Foods

Favorite restaurant in town: I love what twelve is doing. Their monthly menus are every chef's dream, and they do it so well. And the space is just amazing.

What should the role of a reviewer be? Reviewers should review the status of the food, service and atmosphere and steer clear of any drama. Let the food and the establishment speak for themselves.

Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: Elegant comfort food.

Virgilio Urbano

Favorite restaurant in town: I don't get to other restaurants as often as I'd like, but I've found myself more often than not at Steuben's. It's nothing fancy — just great food, great service and comfort-food heaven. I haven't locked on to a favorite, and I'm still touring the menu, but I have to say that the habanero honey-fried corn is crazy-good, and the pork chops have been very, very good to me, too.

What should the role of a reviewer be? Food and wine are very subjective. I like red, you like white. What attracts me to various restaurant reviews is not the opinion of what tastes "good" or "bad" that night, but what's unique about a particular establishment. Restaurateurs as a whole are the hardest working people I've come to know, and we're always striving to do something fresh, new and exciting. On my menu, our pizza is the biggest draw, and I'm constantly told by so many people that it's the best they've ever had. But, hey, try the unique and amazing fiocchi sautéed in brown butter and almonds, too; it's something you just don't get anywhere else. Tell me about those unique surprises, and then you're talking my language as a reviewer.

Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: How savvy and knowledgeable customers are becoming when it comes to the ingredients restaurants use in their dishes. "Where did this come from?" "Is this gluten- wheat- or peanut-free?" Things like that. I love the questions, because they give us a chance to really differentiate what we do from everyone else in our food genre. For example, we make our own mozzarella fresh every day. The fiocchi? They're imported from Italy, and since you asked, the pear inside comes from trees right on site where they make the pasta. Our pastries? We do those ourselves. Gluten-free pizza? Absolutely, and I have to say, it's the most amazing gluten-free pizza you'll ever try. To me, the more discerning a customer is, the more he or she will fall in love with Virgilio's all over again.

Eric Rivera

Favorite restaurant in town: Colt & Gray. Clean flavors, a professional waitstaff and amazing sticky toffee pudding.

What should the role of a reviewer be? Critics should revisit the classics — the restaurants that are responsible for starting our independent restaurant scene — and also provide a history about them and their classic dishes.

Most interesting development on the restaurant scene this year: Neighborhoods are now flooded with independent restaurants, and there seems to be less of a focus on the new downtown hot spots. People are asking themselves, Which neighborhood should we check out tonight, this week or this month?

Ryan Leinonen

Favorite restaurant in town: That's a tough one, because it depends on the kind of mood I'm in. If I'm feeling more casual, I'm pretty much going to Jax Denver to see what kind of good stuff Sheila and Amos are coming up with, and to get a cold beer and some king crab at the bar. I like Jax because I feel comfortable there, and I love all things seafood — and their seafood is killer. If I'm feeling more upscale, I'm headed to Fruition, and if I'm after sushi, which is my usual day-off eats, I'm definitely going to Hana Matsuri in Westminster.

What should the role of a reviewer be? A restaurant reviewer should be fair, impartial and keep the guests of the restaurant and chef in mind. Their role should be to honestly review an establishment based on more than one visit, and only after tasting multiple things on the menu. And a new reviewer should remember that this is Denver: By that I mean that even though Denver's culinary scene is reaching new heights thanks to the hard work of so may talented chefs and owners, it's still not New York, Chicago or San Francisco. We still have a way to go as chefs, as restaurateurs, and as a general eating public to catch up to those culinary sanctuary cities. Don't compare a restaurant in Denver to one of the food temples in NYC, and keep your frame of reference in the Denver market. In addition, their job is to review the restaurant for the purpose of informing the public — not to publicly (and personally) slam the establishment, their managers or their chef. People make mistakes, and reviewers need to realize that their comments can ruin years of hard work and million-dollar investments overnight. Take mistakes and shortcomings with a grain of salt, and give the restaurant a chance to improve.

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