On the rare occasion when someone else is footing the bill for dinner, it's understandably tempting to choose a restaurant where you can ring up a big tab. But an expense-account dinner shouldn't be just an excuse to drop a bunch of Benjamins on a flashy place -- you should also look at the company credit card as an opportunity to test some of Denver's kitchens that are reputed to serve meals that are not just pricy, but delicious. Those spots are way more likely to impress your clients and co-workers, anyway.
So here, in no particular order, are Denver's five best expense-account restaurants, the places where we'd want to book a table if a corporate account was picking up the tab.
The Kitchen Denver, 1530 16th Street We're beginning to see caviar on a few menus around town, but nowhere as obviously and opulently as The Kitchen Denver, where you'll find a choice of Siberian osetra or American sturgeon served with accoutrement like blini and crème fraiche. Pair your roe with a half-dozen oysters and a seafood platter piled with crab legs, mussels and a whole lobster plus a little bubbly, and you've got an impressive -- and expensive -- start to a deal-closing dinner. The restaurant's 16th Street Mall location also makes it a particularly ideal spot for a high-stakes business lunch -- which is probably why a crowd descends on this three-month-old restaurant at noon each day.
Frasca Food and Wine, 1738 Pearl Street, Boulder If you've got the company AmEx at your disposal, why set up a corporate networking dinner at an impressively priced but entirely mediocre hotel restaurant? Instead, head to Frasca in Boulder, where a private dining room offers a good space to get to know out-of-town colleagues while you bond over the four-course menu and, more important, rare selections from the wine cellar. Plus, Frasca's front-of-house staff is particularly adept at dealing with things like your picky co-worker's food aversions and that middle manager who talks too loudly after three martinis, making those hours and hours of small talk with people you only sort of like a little more bearable.
Elway's Cherry Creek, 2500 East First Avenue Fact: some business calls for a steakhouse. And if you're going to treat your team to ribeyes and red wine, there's no better place in town than Elway's Cherry Creek. This refined shrine to aged beef has all the markings of opulence that define this kind of cuisine: dark and heavy woods, golden lighting and a sleek bar. But the steaks are also a cut above, served a perfect medium rare, seasoned with a savory spice rub and imbued with the tang of the grill. Seafood offerings are also killer, and since you're not picking up the tab, you have good reason to add a lobster tail to dinner.
Fruition, 1313 East Sixth Avenue We realize that you're frequently using the business tab to woo a big client, a member of the board or a potential investor, and the temptation is understandably strong to head to the showiest -- and priciest -- place in town. But trust us, your refined palate and exquisite taste in venue is infinitely more impressive to a VIP -- which means you should consider Fruition, which I review this week. The atmosphere is unpretentious and the staff is unobtrusive, so you'll have a good shot at really engaging your target in conversation, forging a better connection than one based on the bottom line. It helps, too, that the food is always perfect, made from some of the finest ingredients you can find locally, which gives your guest of honor a great taste of what this town has to offer outside of the corporate world of downtown.
1. Sushi Sasa, 2401 15th Street When Wayne Conwell opened Sushi Sasa between LoDo and LoHi, he brought sushi in this land-locked town to a new level: Using impeccably sourced fish, the chef creates inventive dishes that bend the definition of this type of cuisine without straying into fusion. Sleek and modern, the space, like the food, is impressive but not ostentatious, and it can accommodate groups or private conversations for lunch or dinner. And as you enjoy the food and your evening your tab will definitely mount -- which makes this a very good bill to have the company pick up. That's why Sushi Sasa landed our Best Expense-Account Dinner award in the Best of Denver 2012.
Know of another great spot? Tell us about it below.
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