Second Helpings

Second Helping

Just staying open for over thirty years is an achievement for any restaurant. But staying open and staying relevant? That's really noteworthy.

And it's a trick that Tante Louise has pulled off through decades of ups and downs, of flashy culinary fads and trend-sucking foodies willing to fall for any gimmick with a price tag attached. Thanks mostly to owner Corky Douglass's endless patience and wicked eye for spotting young talent (think Michael Degenhart, Duy Pham and now Marlo Hix), Tante has never fallen far off of Denver's culinary radar, and in those seasons when it has, it has never been down for long.

Take, for example, the cuisine now being done by Hix, which is much improved over what I tried two years ago. It's both classical and nouveau, French and American, worldly yet grounded in products found in the American West. A plate of heirloom tomatoes with lemon salt comes with tempura-fried anchovies on the side; the Hudson Valley foie gras appears doused in a horror of a strawberry gastrique, somehow made almost right by the inclusion of ginger; and the bass, the lamb and many of the other meats on the entree side of the menu come with a Colorado address kinked by the inclusion of curries, couscous and chorizo.

This is daring stuff, and though the kitchen sometimes stumbles, the house always stays on its feet. You can credit some of this to a staff accustomed to the changing tastes of an educated dining public, and some to the long memories of regulars who have been coming here since 1973. But more than anything, with those years has come the lesson that, no matter what, there will always be another meal, another day, another season, and that Tante Louise will always be a work in progress.