I'd walk several miles to eat more of Sean Kelly's food, so it comes as good news that his Clair de Lune, at 1313 East Sixth Avenue (in the space that was Merano), will be open soon. "I'm shooting for the first week of April," Kelly says. "I don't have the menu totally set yet, but it's getting there." The front of the house is well on its way, too: Kelly has signed up Kathy Hawkins, who won kudos from Food & Wine last year for her wine list at Micole (1469 South Pearl Street). He plans to hire three more people for the front and two or three for the kitchen, and that will pretty much round out the staff needed for the six-table spot.
Those staffers won't be taking credit cards, and they'll be serving dinner only, Tuesday through Saturday. "I plan to do a couple of meat dishes each night, a fish and a vegetarian entree, probably a fruit de mer platter of chilled lobster and shrimp, and a couple of desserts," Kelly says. You can also expect lots of fresh, fresh produce and hormone-free and free-range meats. During his year off after closing Aubergine (225 East Seventh Avenue, the space now occupied by Mizuna), Kelly spent a lot of time reading about the state of the food industry in this country, and he was appalled by what he learned. "Without getting up on a big soapbox or making a political statement," he says, "let's just say I plan to serve foods at the restaurant that I'd want to eat myself."
Another top Colorado chef, James Mazzio, has resurfaced after his sudden disappearance from Triana (1039 Pearl Street, Boulder). Initially, Triana employees were telling people that Mazzio was doing "product development for an unknown company" (The Bite, February 21), but it turns out that he's been developing his own company, a new catering business called Chef Jam, which he describes as offering "food that is very personalized to the event." Mazzio left Triana under friendly circumstances, and he recently showed up there just to hang out. "In the beginning of Triana, we had talked about me just getting the eatery set up and going," he explains. "I might not have gone so soon, but the restaurant was starting to have an identity crisis. It was a nightclub on the weekends, and then I'd be trying to do this very different thing with the food. In the end, the nightclub sort of won out."
Mazzio is still being very hush-hush about two restaurant concepts he's trying to get going -- in Gunbarrel, of all places. "That area is developing very rapidly," he says of the town near Longmont. "I think it's the perfect place for some exciting ideas to happen."
Neighborhood watch: The folks at Dazzle (930 Lincoln Street) just had their cabaret license approved, which means they can go forward with live jazz on Wednesday nights and offer special entertainment on other evenings as well. But that's not the only dazzling change at Dazzle, which is turning into a neighborhood clubhouse. The lounge in back now boasts board games; it's set off by hanging community canvases on which any patron can paint. (The resulting masterpieces are auctioned off weekly.) The bar has a cozy new seating area, with a classy free snack to match: cheese puffs presented in a martini glass. And from 3:30 p.m.(when the restaurant opens) through 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, Dazzle is hosting an Atomic Cocktail Party, when the $4 appetizer roster includes a full-sized hamburger, shrimp scampi and a four-cheese grilled pizza.
Next up on the innovations list: expanding the windows along Lincoln so that Dazzle has less of a bunker-like appearance, and moving the front offices so that the bar flows into the dining room.
Just north of Dazzle, more changes are in the works. The long-rumored Silk is moving forward, pushed by the team of Jay Chadron (owner of Club Sanctuary) and Billy Tangredi (formerly of the Black-Eyed Pea). Silk is being billed as a sushi bar -- and neighbors who've raised a fuss over other club expansions in the area hope the emphasis will be on "sushi" rather than "bar."
Sushi has a long history in this neighborhood. When the Church opened at 1160 Lincoln, sushi was one of the groundbreaking nightclub's draws. (Japon, at 1028 South Gaylord, was the initial provider.) But even before that, back in the '70s, the building that houses Dazzle was Fuji-En, one of the first places in town to serve it raw.
Where there's smoke, there's ire: Several readers have responded to the February 28 Bite that discussed Le Central (112 East Eighth Avenue) booting lobbyist Kathryn Works after she'd taken up a table for three hours. "If she thought she should be entitled to unlimited table occupation, why didn't she ask the restaurant if she could just have the table for the night?" wonders James Jay Jones. "With all the cases that you could report about restaurants that push customers out after just one and a half hours of dining, I'd think you'd exercise more discretion in filtering out the personal grudges of people whose behavior would seem to be suspiciously pushy."
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I agree that Works should have made it clearer from the start that her business dinner could last the entire evening (most restaurants expect to have at least two seatings per table on the weekends); I also think Le Central let her have the table for a more than reasonable amount of time. But when the restaurant finally decided to make her get out (well into that night's second seating), I think the staff handled it badly.
For me, the bottom line on this issue has to do with the bottom line: If a restaurant wants to collect repeat dining dollars from businesspeople, then it has to accommodate them when they want to do business over a lengthy meal. Otherwise, some other place will.
Quote of the week: When Manny Salzman, who's lived in lower downtown for thirty years, was honored at the LoDo District's annual meeting in the Grand Ballroom of the Oxford Hotel last week, he talked about all the changes he'd seen in the area. One of the most major developments came in the early '90s, when restaurants started throwing out better food. And today, he noted, "The dumpsters of LoDo have the finest cuisine in the world."