Second Helpings

Still on Top

The Fourth Story opened to raves in March 1995 -- but its kitchen must have come equipped with a revolving door. Original chef Terri Rippeto left after just three months to open Potager; her replacement, Steve Jaeckel, couldn't cut the mustard. Jess Roybal took this eatery that sits atop the Cherry Creek Tattered Cover to new heights, but he was killed by lightning. David Steinmann, formerly of Barolo Grill, moved in and solidified the restaurant's reputation as a dining powerhouse, but he subsequently decided to go work with his family. And after barely a year in Steinmann's shoes, Chris Cina got the opportunity to cook in Switzerland.

Now it's up to Brian Sack to keep Fourth Story fans happy. Judging from the always-full reservation book, he's doing a good job. Judging from my recent meal there, he's doing a great one.

The dining room is the same wonderful, window-rimmed, book-filled space; the wine list is the best in town in terms of price, selection and by-the-glass options; the servers are as super-solici-tous as ever. And if possible, the food is even more interesting than it used to be. An appetizer of seared sea scallops with watercress and sweet lobster vinaigrette came garnished with an Asiago wafer that was like the gourmet version of every cheese crust you've ever pulled with burnt fingers from the bottom of the pan. Equally appealing were the fried shrimp wontons with a fiery cucumber salad, an upscale take on crab rangoons.

Sack's sauces really shine. A housemade "moonshine" demi-glace covered our succulent slab of Black Angus tenderloin, a piece of meat as tasty as you'd find in an overblown steakhouse (and in some cases, even tastier); a warm, fresh raspberry coulis decorated a fan of cold-smoked duck breast. Sack did well by the potatoes, too, injecting a gratin with Gorgonzola and stacking straw sticks of spud into a crusty-edged cake.

Since Steinmann's day, the desserts have come from Blue Valentine bakery, which is run by Nikki McCauley, and they continue to be to die for. We sampled a superb white-chocolate hazelnut parfait, as well as a delicate rhubarb Napoleon that was like a sweet-and-sour strudel. The Fourth Story's Josmeyer 1991 Hengst Grand Cru Riesling proved the perfect way to polish off the meal and also toast the kitchen -- no matter who's in there.