Less than two weeks have passed since Charcoal shuttered at 43 West Ninth Avenue in the Golden Triangle, and already a new tenant has claimed the vacant spot. Chefs Chris Martinez, Catie Reece and Julian Kurz are teaming up to open Ad Hominem, which Martinez says will offer fine-dining food in a more casual atmosphere — and without the high prices.
Martinez and Kurz met a couple of years ago while they were both enrolled at Johnson & Wales University, and they recently worked together at Rioja, but Martinez says he'd already been cooking professionally for years before he decided to attend culinary school, including time spent in top kitchens in Chicago and New York City. He hopes to bring some of the focus on producing the best food possible — the extreme attention to detail that separates the good from the great — from those cities. "I want Michelin to come to Denver, and I want to be at the forefront of that race," he explains.
Ad Hominem takes its name from a Latin phrase which generally means a verbal attack on a person's character. But the chefs (Kurz was a Latin and philosophy major in college) are relying on a more literal translation to define their restaurant: "to the person."
"It's for the people," Martinez further explains. "It's a bad way to argue but a good way to cook."
Martinez hesitates to define Ad Hominem by a specific style of food. "I hate that question, because I don't want to confine myself to one style," he explains. "I want to define it by the experience."
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He adds that the experience will be light, lively, playful, energetic and fun, with a range of small plates and larger dishes on which a couple could expect to spend $80 to $100 for a night out, rather than $150 to $200 for the same food and experience elsewhere. "In a way, we're undercutting fine dining," the chef notes.
"We also want to break the idea that you can't make a living as a line cook," Martinez adds. "We want to set a new standard not only for customers, but for employees. If we take care of our employees, they will take care of our customers."
Ad Hominem is already in the process of being transformed from its previous incarnation, and Martinez hopes to open in early April. The dining room will be lighter and brighter than Charcoal was, and there will be a glass hydroponic case in the center of the space where the team will grow fresh herbs and greens. There's also a private dining room in the back that's being decked out with a crystal chandelier and a large central table where the chefs will be able to present multi-course dinners.
Charcoal had served the neighborhood for seven years before closing on January 23. Owner Gary Sumihiro and chef/partner Patrik Landberg chose to focus their attention on their other restaurant, Charcoal Bistro, on Old South Gaylord.