Sean Kelly and his chef, Seth Black, have been doing the Tapas Thing (see Bite Me/a>) for quite some time. They may have been the first in town -- this time around, at least -- to take the trend seriously, and they built the entire Somethin' Else menu around the glorification of small plates and Spanish-style dining.
Right now, Somethin' Else is cooking off a mid-season menu -- a little bit spring, a little bit summer --while Kelly waits for one of the local growers he uses to come up with her first hot-weather vegetables. In the meantime, he's still offering albondigas, along with fried baby artichokes that no one in the world cooks quite the same way this kitchen does, Colorado lamb ribs with a flavor like a Moroccan spice market, duck confit with pickled figs, Serrano ham with figs and Spanish queso, falafel, plantains and white anchovies brought in bottled from Spain. From the clams and chorizo all the way down to the Provencal fig-and-almond tarts topped with honey, it's a borderless menu -- not necessarily Spanish or Mediterranean or French or Italian, but with tastes coming from the traditions of each of these regions. With the expanded space (the restaurant is now double the size of Kelly's old Clair de Lune, and at the same time warmer and more rustic), Somethin' Else has been doing good business -- attracting a steady flow of neighborhood regulars on the weekdays and honest-to-God crowds on the weekends. (Take note: on Tuesdays, the kitchen roasts whole suckling pigs.)
Although Kelly doesn't do as much cooking as he used to, when I ran into him early one afternoon last week, he was taking out the trash. Not exactly the move of some celebrity chef all-star -- more the daily duty of a working cook. A line-dog, which is what Kelly -- no matter whether he's calling himself owner, chef or dishwasher -- has always been. $-$$$$
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