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Argyll's Sergio Romero, under the lights

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Before I ever ate at Argyll, I was worried about the place. I worried about the space that Argyll occupies (the ex-Squealing Pig location in Cherry Creek) and the guy running the show (Robert Thompson, ex of Brasserie Rouge). I worried that it was calling itself a gastropub, a word that I hate, and seemed to be featuring the cuisine of Scotland, which would make any seasoned eater a bit...wary.

Mostly, though, I was worried because my first exposure to chef Sergio Romero had been at September's "Mile High Chef" competition, where Romero, battling it out against chef Jay Spickelmier from Jing (well, now formerly of Jing), seemed to struggle. Not that it's easy being up there in the spotlight or anything, working under the gun with Keegan Gerhard poking a mic in your face and a bunch of goons sitting there judging you. But in years past, some of Denver's great chefs have done exactly that and come out looking like pure pros. Romero? Despite the fact that lamb was the secret ingredient and lamb is all over his menu at Argyll, he seemed out of his element, and the dishes that he put up -- my first introduction to his cuisine -- were not as good as I was hoping for.

Which is just a friendly way of saying that most of them sucked. Hard.

Still, it's not like I would've done any better. Even in my best years, I would've fucked up boiling water with all of those people watching, and no doubt would've accidentally lit Gerhard on fire to boot. But that didn't make me any less worried about what Romero might get up to in his own kitchen.

Now, after several meals at Argyll, I am happy to report that, far from the glare of the spotlights and the roar of the crowds, this kid can really cook. Despite all my worries, Argyll was wonderful, and a real revelation: a great recovery of a loser of a space, now making some of the best grub in town.

Don't believe me? Check out this review of Argyll for all the details. Oh, and if you happen to be planning on dropping by there this weekend, how 'bout picking me up a couple baskets of Romero's house chips and malt vinegar gastrique to go? I miss them already...

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