Cafe Society

Lots of Lux

I felt I had to set down my initial impressions of the place before I lost them -- before they were blown clean out of my head with shotgun severity by the next outrage. So there I was, hunched up against the wall, frantically scribbling on the back of an old check:

This is not a restaurant, I wrote. This is a time-warp trip back to the Rome of the Caesars…a gilt-edged and bejeweled palace filled with polished marble, fire, lacquer, iron and gold with glowing lamps and statuary and fiery angel choirs singing from atop massive pillars…

Laura had ducked out for a minute, gone clopping across the marble floor in her spike heels to check out the bakery in the lobby, the towering bar. I’d sat, walled in by the wreckage of our first course -- by half-eaten double-stuffed potato spring rolls, the gnawed ends of flautas as thick around as small burritos, and mini hot dogs made (allegedly) of Kobe beef, buried in chili and cheese and mounted, like the offering in some freaky church of meat processors, atop the altars of their outsized, precariously tall buns – before I’d escaped to a corner to scribble.

Here, all the world’s cuisines have collided, the place itself standing like a massive edifice against all that is good and decent in the world, a giant, marbled and sculpted Fuck You to generations of cooks and chefs and every small advance we’ve made. This is where food goes to die.

And that was just the start of my adventures at Grand Lux Café -- a horrific experiment in world-food fusion about as subtle as ramming two panel vans full of international ingredients together on the highway and then proudly serving whatever goo can be scraped off the pavement. Since the restaurant was brought to Colorado by the brain trust behind the Cheesecake Factory, I guess I shouldn’t have been expecting much, but the place was so huge, so ornate and so fucking crowded that my curiosity was piqued. I couldn’t help thinking that there had to be something in there worth eating.

This is what I get for listening to my head instead of my gut.

Beyond my recounting the nightmares of a restaurant that forces its cooks to make both chicken picatta (badly) and Kentucky hot brown for the same menu, this week's Cafe section also has some news from a good restaurant, since I chatted with Wayne Conwell from Sushi Sasa about the future of Denver’s best sushi restaurant.

Oh, and then there’s the little matter of my dinner at Le Bernardin last week. I talk about that a bit, too.

In all, another busy week. Check out the details when the paper hits the stands on Thursday, or come back here to read it all online. And remember that Café Society, our dedicated food blog, is now up, filling all your daily dietary needs for tasty restaurant tidbits. -- Jason Sheehan