Best Taste of the Future 2007 | Potager | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Molly Martin
Every decade, every era, every movement in modern cuisine seems attended by a requisite affectation. A few years ago, every serious kitchen needed a sous-vide setup. Before that, it was a compressed CO2 gun for making foams. Before that, it was squeeze bottles and specialty tools like fish spatulas and jeweler's pliers in the knife kit. Today, every big-name chef worth his endorsement contract wants a potager -- a sustainable garden from which all his produce can be pulled. And bragged about. Thing is, for years Denver has had its own secret garden: Potager, where chef/owner Teri Rippeto works her uncompromising magic on an ever-changing menu. The lineup is seasonal, with every dish a heartfelt expression of its constituent parts, every ingredient sourced as close to home as possible. If American fine dining is to have any kind of future, its course will be charted at places like Potager.
Sushi Sasa/Instagram
At Sushi Sasa, chef Wayne Conwell and his crew make great sushi. Since Conwell served a very old-style apprenticeship among some of the modern masters of the craft, that's a given. But it's with his omakase menus -- personalized, multi-course tastings -- that he truly shows the depth and breadth of his skill. With this sudden freedom from the constraints of tradition comes an honesty and a sense of potential that can be stunning. From the simplest riffs on hand rolls to the over-the-top opulence of prized ingredients being handled with a masterful touch, every one of Conwell's original, distinctive and highly personal menus is an improvisational opus never to be repeated exactly the same way again.
The small-plate fads may be dying, but the 9th Door deserves to stick around. Rather than compromise in the face of changing tastes, it remains dedicated to traditional Spanish flavors: anchovies, a handful of olives and almonds, some sour goat cheese laced with honey, pan-fried artichokes and potatoes sparked with romesco. The plates may be small, but that sounds like the makings of a big meal.
Courtesy L'Atelier Facebook
Frozen oils, liquid potatoes, horseradish foam -- chef Radek Cerny's latest run of menus at L'Atelier haven't even been fusion so much as Venusian, heavily influenced by the work of Ferran Adria at El Bulli and running the ragged outer edge between border-jumping French/ Spanish/American/Asian cuisines and the flummery of ultra-modern gas-and-lasers molecular gastronomy. Sure, it's fusion -- but the menu is so much more, encompassing everything from international sashimi and grits to salmon cassoulet and duck confit. No matter what you call it, Cerny's cooking must be experienced to be truly understood. And you should experience it.
Over the years, Michael Long has played many roles. He's been an employee and an owner, a wild-eyed genius and a flake, a scientist whose kitchen was a laboratory where he experimented with molecular gastronomy, and a chef whose primary goal was feeding people what they wanted to eat -- not necessarily what the chef wanted to cook. And within this back-and-forth pull between art and commerce, instinct and economics, Opus came up with a new form of fusion -- one that smushed together the head and the gut and, in the process, created a menu both incredibly chef-driven and marketable. Long pulled off this rare trick through a combination of intelligent design, a classical menu, innovative specials and blow-out chef's dinners that allow him and his crew to get as weird as they want without running the risk of alienating all those cheeseburger eaters.
Sketch serves late, but more important, Sketch really comes alive late at night -- when restaurant crews, homeward-bound Creekers, the hammered, the shattered, those whose nights are coming to an end and those whose nights are just getting started all seem to converge on the subterranean wine bar. The by-the-glass list and super-call booze (the Del Maguey Pechuga mezcal at $14 a shot is worth every goddamn penny) might be the hook that gets us in the door, but Sketch's well-conceived menu -- and, in particular, the derivative, completely addictive beef carpaccio "Harry's Bar" -- is what keeps us coming back night after night after night.
Breakfast King is great for breakfast, and it's a good spot to wolf down a burger for lunch or a chicken-fried steak on a lazy Sunday evening. But if, like us, you sometimes find yourself desperately in need of a gigantic burrito, a ham steak, some corned beef hash or maybe just thirty cups of coffee and a slice of cherry pie at three in the morning, then Breakfast King is absolutely the best place in town. While other all-night joints have come and gone, the King continues to rule, a dependable, loyal, unwavering friend to all of Denver's night creatures.
Mark Antonation
Toast serves everything you've dreamed about in your wildest, most gluttonous dreams. For starters, there are pancakes: beautiful, brilliant, wicked messes of chocolate and peanut butter, blueberry and lemon zest, bananas and ice cream. Then there are plates of greasy bacon, decadent Benedicts, spicy sausages, sweet chai-infused French toast, eggs of every description and bottomless cups of coffee. Though new this year and fairly small, Toast has already won over a rabidly loyal band of regulars ten times the size of the restaurant itself. While waits during prime breakfast time can be long, they're absolutely worth it. Or sleep late and come during lunch hour, when the full breakfast menu is still served.
Cassandra Kotnik
The Bagel Store sits in a quiet strip mall in the heart of Little Russia, but it's staffed by young guys who really know their Jewish doughnut. You can smell the place doing it right, and if you show up early (the shop closes at 2 p.m. on the dot), you can even look through the doors to the huge bakery in the back, where guys work the dough as bagels steam in vats of water. While the Bagel Store does a passable version of an East Coast egg bagel, the fantastic salt bagel is the real deal -- and you can pick up a half-dozen for less than four bucks.
There's no better way to start the day than with breakfast in bed, and there's no better place to stock up than Les Delices de Paris. Walking into the warm, bright, well-scrubbed interior of the little pastry shop -- which is decorated almost exclusively with the diplmes and certificats de travail earned by owners Alexandre and Christelle Donat -- is like walking into another world: one of pure sensation, of cream and sugar, fine flour, yeast and butter and salt. The menu (such as it is) reads like poetry, like love: brioche and charlotte, tuiles, meringuette, merveilleux and fruits tartellet. Make it easy on yourself and order one of everything. Better yet, order two -- because then there's a chance you'll have something left over for breakfast in bed tomorrow.

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