Cafe Society

First look: To the Wind Bistro, a restaurant from a Mizuna alum, opens on East Colfax

"I started washing dishes when I was fourteen," recalls Royce Oliveira, who's 34...and still washing dishes. But now he's scrubbing pots and pans in the confines of his own kitchen in his own restaurant, a teensy-weensy fourteen-seater -- that includes the four seats at he chef's counter overlooking an open kitchen -- on East Colfax called To the Wind Bistro, a name, says Oliveira, who also spent nearly five years at Mizuna, nabbed the gig as the opening chef Axios and put in nine months as the exec chef of Village Cork, that's a playful riff on, well, a little too much of the sauce. "It's a play on being three sheets to the wind," he says, noting that his menu, a concise, seasonal board of starters, main dishes and desserts, the latter of which are the creations of his wife Leanne Adamson, is geared toward dishes that pair well with beer.

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"I love beer, much more so than wine," admits Oliveira, "so I wanted to open a restaurant that not only had great things to eat, but also lots and lots of great beers." His beer stash, mostly bottles that he keeps in a small refrigerator in the light and airy dining room bedecked with hunter green banquettes and hand-crafted wooden tables decoupaged with irreverent magazine photos (think skulls, Mona Lisa cupping a beer and a pig diagram), includes brews from Ommegang, Flying Dog, Elevation, Epic and the Bruery; there are also four beers on tap: Renegade 5.00 ale, a BSB American red porter; an imperial stout from Epic and Prost's Dunkel. Wines, of which there are five by the bottle, and a selection of whiskeys, round out the liquid assets.

"We're definitely beer-and-food focused," emphasizes Oliveira, adding that the menu, printed out every night and red-stamped with the restaurant's logo, is indicative of the "fun stuff I like to eat." And the board is small, he adds, "because we want to keep our food as consistent as possible, with simple executions and nothing over the top. It's just good, honest food," he says. The current menu, for example, pimps a few salads; a cheese plate, the selections of which are sourced from the Truffle; country pork pâté with pickled vegetables and mustard; a gluten-free waffle made with Epic stout and dusted with shavings of foie gras; slow-roasted salmon with shaved fennel; buttermilk chicken; and escargo empanadas. And nothing on his menu is more than $20. "We want to make this an affordable neighborhood restaurant, and we want to cater to families," says Oliveira, who has a young daughter.

"This is the perfect space for want we want to do," he adds. "It's intimate and has character, it's convenient to where we live, and I have total control over everything." And most important, stresses Oliveira, is witnessing the fruition of building -- and opening -- a restaurant during a long, fearful of stress: His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer the day he signed the lease, in June of 2013. Then, just two weeks ago, when he secured his certificate of occupancy, her doctors gave her a clean bill of health. "We've endured a lot over the past year, but we're rocking and rolling and moving forward with our lives, and it feels amazing. We're finally open, Leanne is in remission, and it all feels just so good," he concludes.

To the Wind is open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner beginning at 5 p.m. Here's a first look at the space.