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When Palettes opened, in 1997, heads turned. Not as much as they did years later to take in the Hamilton wing of the Denver Art Museum, with its shiny triangular facade and vertiginous stairs, but they turned all the same. Until then, dining was an afterthought to art, and hungry museum-goers in Denver were faced with the same dilemma as art-lovers nationwide: Order something from the casual museum cafe or leave the premises for a fancier meal. Palettes, along with chef-driven restaurants at the Getty in Los Angeles, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Neue Galerie in New York, changed all that, proving that food could be as much of a draw as the art. But today Palettes seems almost like a sketch for an iconic work: You see glimpses of the brilliance that could be, but the lines are faint, the hand still feeling its way. Palettes is in the hands of veteran restaurateur Kevin Taylor, who closed both Restaurant Kevin Taylor and Prima in early 2014; now that he has more time, he should make an effort to fill in between those lines.
Since then, Taylor has opened many successful restaurants, all appealing to those with a sophisticated palette, as well as a love for the arts. Although each restaurant’s menu and style offers diners a singular experience, Taylor’s belief in fresh ingredients and beautiful presentation is a common thread throughout all.