Thanawat Bates, the exec sous chef of the Palace Arms at the opulent Brown Palace hotel, 321 17th Street, is circling the dining room, stopping intermittently at tables seated with wealthy business types to inquire about their lunch. "I've never done lunch in a fine-dining setting, so there was an awful lot of thought processes that went through my mind before I wrote the menu," says Bates, who joined the Brown Palace in 2005, two years after the Palace Arms originally stopped serving lunch.
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"We wanted to give downtown diners the same high quality food that we serve at dinner, but in a setting that doesn't require you to dress up," explains Bates, who describes the lunch menu, which will change seasonally, as "simple and fairly light, but innovative." The board is short and to the point, featuring just four starters and seven entrees, including a terrific twist on the BLT.
"That's one my favorite dishes," says Bates, who takes the requisite components of the classic sandwich -- bacon, lettuce and tomato -- and creatively contemporizes the dish by adding an exemplary salmon filet accessorized with stewed heirloom tomatoes, toasted bread crumbs, smoked bacon and, in place of lettuce, an asparagus and arugula salad. He gives pancetta a starring role in the Cobb salad that's further bolstered by a yolky egg and he crowns the Kobe beef burger with foie gras and truffled cheese. "We don't want to put people in a food coma," jokes Bates, "but we also wanted to have some fun with the menu and offer a few twists."
The Palace Arms, which celebrated 60 years feeding Denver's moneyed movers and shakers in April, is open for lunch Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For more information, call 303-297-3111.