Viand opened last fall in the space that had once housed La Fondue. While the restaurant and its partner next door, Reunion Gastro Pub, feel isolated on an island between the 16th Street Mall and the Denver Performing Arts Complex, that isolation gives Viand a cozy feel inside — like a hidden retreat in the heart of the city.
And Viand's menu certainly feels like something to be whispered about, the kind of secret you're dying to tell everyone you know — but that you save for your closest friends. The menu is the work of opening executive chef Victor Mena and consulting chef Dana Rodriguez (whose full-time job at Work & Class has earned her considerable recognition). Mena has worked with Rodriguez for years, most recently at Work & Class, but also at Rioja and Tamayo. His focus on freshness and straight-forward simplicity means that ingredients are presented without elaborate culinary gestures, leaving the food to stand on its own.
The housemade burrata is a prime example of this philosophy. A tight ball of fresh mozzarella glistens with drops of olive oil, hiding a luxurious interior of more soft cheese suspended in cream. A side of walnut pesto adds herbal sweetness and a syrupy spoonful of reduced balsamic vinegar lends age and character. Layer the elements onto fresh-baked pretzel bread or eat them individually, bite by bite, to send your palate on a dizzying ride of alternating flavors and textures.
Other dishes on the menu, like a bacon, egg and asparagus composition, reveal similar focus and restraint, requesting your attention without pulling you by the ear. Viand's location makes it an obvious choice for the pre-theater crowd, but go during off hours to enjoy a quieter meal where the burrata can take a star turn.
Throughout this year, we'll be counting down the best dishes in the city — from longtime classics that keep us coming back to new additions that have caught our attention. If there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section, or shoot us an e-mail at [email protected]
Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2016 countdown are linked below.
No. 100: Masala Beef at Biju's Little Curry Shop
No. 99: Bacon Shrimp and Grits at Bacon Social House
No. 98: Porchetta and Kimchi Sandwich at Brider
No. 97: Squab-and-Sunchoke Tortellini at Abejas