Opening a restaurant in a retail strip next to a dentist's office doesn't exactly scream "sexy." But if you combine a little sweat equity with years of industry experience, a former frozen yogurt shop can be transformed into someplace warm and sensuous with equal parts urban sophistication and DIY charm. Christopher Sargent, just a few days away from swinging open the doors of his new restaurant Brazen, hopes to strike a balance between neighborhood appeal and chef-driven panache on the border of West Highland and Berkeley.
Sargent, whose experience includes Rioja and Acorn here in Denver as well as a number of Las Vegas openings, says he expects Brazen to offer "downtown food and service in a neighborhood setting."
Among the draws will be a wine list aimed at connoisseurs but priced for the neighborhood and a patio with a park-like feel that will feature a fire pit and leash lines between trees for guests' dogs (since Sargent has two himself and considers them part of the family). The spotlight, though, will be on chef Lance Barto's open kitchen, where the seasonal, new-American cuisine will include a focus on seafood and produce with hints of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern influences. Sargent and Barto also plan to draw restaurant industry workers with a late-night menu geared toward those looking for great food after standard restaurant shifts; while many industry workers live in the area, there are no full-service restaurants on the southwest side of Tennyson and 38th Avenue, Sargent says. So Brazen will keep the fires going until 2 a.m. every night but Sunday; Barto mentions welcoming dishes like ramen and possibly a rotating "one-pot," family-supper style dish.
The chef met Sargent almost four years ago and they talked about doing a restaurant together even then, but Barto's career, including time at Central Bistro and the Social in Castle Rock, took the two in separate directions until now. "I grew up near 58th and Kipling, so it feels close to home," says Barto of the restaurant's location, built on former Elitch Gardens land.
While Sargent and his crew put finishing touches on the dining room, ladders, tarps and tools clutter the space. But once open, the intimate forty-seater will come alive with textures meant to enhance the warmth of the place. Striking Cypress panels darkened using a Japanese technique called shou-sugi-ban greet diners at the entrance, while blown-glass orbs hang over a bar made from reclaimed trucking bedding. Gleaming white subway tile in the open kitchen makes a striking backdrop to watch Barto and his team from what Sargent says will be the best chef's counter in town.
Brazen will be open from 4 p.m to 2 a.m. starting this Saturday, September 27, with hours and a menu designed to draw industry workers with something more than standard after-hours sliders and neighbors looking for something a little more, well, brazen.