With the memory of that excellent roasted chicken at Palettes (see review) still fresh, what should I find waiting for me back at the office? The long overdue confirmation that Kevin Taylor will indeed be taking over the old Theatre Cafe space in the Denver Performing Arts Complex and turning it into Limelight Supper Club.
When I asked Taylor about this a couple of months ago ("Next!," August 2), he hadn't yet signed on the dotted line. And as anyone who follows the restaurant industry knows, until all the paperwork has been autographed, the keys exchanged and the lawyers satisfied, no deal should be considered done. In this business, more plans fall apart at the eleventh hour than at any other time, and the only moment worse than the one right before the would-be owner puts pen to paper is the moment immediately after, when that new owner finally realizes all that he has put on the line.
At least Taylor won't be going into Limelight alone. He's partnered up with Centerplate, one of the country's biggest (if not the biggest) food-service and catering outfits, with operations at 130 sports, entertainment and convention venues — including Denver's. It caters presidential inaugural balls, All-Star games, trade shows, suite parties and Super Bowls — not just parties (although it'll do those, too), but the actual games. When the Dems roll through Denver next year, Centerplate will feed a lot of them. And now, after two years of working together on Kevin Taylor's at the Opera House, Centerplate and the Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group are expanding across the Galleria to Limelight, where they'll have a new restaurant and also offer food and beverage service to all of the theaters and venues in the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
Current plans call for a sixty-seat dining room plus patio and lounge space at Limelight; a private room will seat another sixty. One menu will feature quick-hit, pre-theater or intermission snacks, ranging from chicken wings to truffle fries to tuna sashimi to a twelve-buck Kobe burger; a second, more serious, more expensive menu designed for sit-down dining will offer everything from caviar service (American farm-raised) and crab Louis to rack of lamb and whole lobsters. When I saw this borderless, luxe catch-all of French, Mexican, American, Asian and chophouse menus, the first thing I thought was this: "Where in the hell is Taylor going to find a chef who can make crab Louis as well as he can a Caprese salad and a plateau de fruits de mer?"
But if anyone can do it, Taylor can. The Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group hooking up with Centerplate is like the beginning stages of the formation of Voltron — now only requiring that Dave Query, maybe Jim Sullivan, Frank Bonanno and Jesse Morreale all come together and create one massive culinary super-robot that they can use to handle Denver's gastronomic needs by day and fight crime by night.
It could totally happen...
Dark Victory: A block up Curtis Street from the future Limelight, Victory American Bar and Grill has closed at 1512 Curtis. Opened last year by the Armatas brothers (part of a multi-generational local restaurant family whose legacy is the Sam's No. 3 brand — including the almost-forty-year-old No. 3 at 2580 South Havana in Aurora and a four-year-old No. 3 at 1500 Curtis, a couple of doors away from the first Sam's No. 3 that grandfather Sam Armatas opened in the '20s, as part of his Sam's Coney Island chain), the upscale Victory just couldn't find the traction or the trade to keep the doors open. "More going out than was coming in," was the succinct explanation I got from one of the Sam's employees — and that sucks, because the place was absolutely gorgeous inside, with an expensive, Victorian-era renovation inspired by Baur's, the building's most famous tenant.
So we lose Victory — and gain Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. That's what's going to open September 23 at 1437 California Street, right in the Theatre District that recently welcomed the decidedly more welcome Oceanaire and the Corner Office. As if you couldn't guess, this chain restaurant is based on a movie based on a book based on the notion that one mentally challenged shrimp-boat captain and his alcoholic, legless, Vietnam veteran buddy can change the world. And who knows? Maybe that's true. But one thing I know for sure is that I am not going to be caught dead eating anywhere that comes with a ready-made gift shop, as Bubba Gump does.
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Leftovers: I don't know when it went dark, but Forbidden City Buffet, at 1302 South Havana in Aurora, has closed. It had been a while since I'd taken a spin in that direction, a while since I'd been in the mood for its particular brand of Japanese/Chinese/Russian buffet glory. And while its Buckingham Plaza Mall spot might make the perfect shooting location for a Colorado-based zombie movie, it was never a healthy place for a restaurant.
Still, I'm going to miss those golden buns — the little deep-fried, sugar-crusted Chinese doughnuts that were Forbidden City's claim to fame. The only thin hope I have is the answering-machine message that says the owners are looking for a new location.
Tula Latin Bistro, at 250 Josephine Street, has just added a Sunday brunch with a Mexican twist. The menu is pretty simple — sweet pumpkin soup with truffled crema, poblano chile cornbread with ancho-spiked honey, French toast made with Patrón coffee liqueur and caramelized plantains, and the signature "Green Eggs and Lamb." And if that's not enough to get you in the door, chef Chris Douglas and his buddy Sean Yontz (from Chama et al.) will be doing a repeat of their sold-out James Beard House dinner at Tula on September 25, then a Denver chef's dinner on October 23 featuring Douglas, Yontz, Tyler Wiard of Elway's and Goose Sorenson from Solera.