Au Feu Brasserie
81 South Pennsylvania Street
Open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.
For more info:
What we saw:
Tinned Portuguese octopus is served in a custom dish made by a Portuguese artist.
Motivated in part by the proliferation of hot chicken in Denver over the past year, restaurateur Jared Leonard made a swap, shutting down his Budlong Hot Chicken outpost
and giving it a French-Montreal makeover. Just over a month after frying its last chicken, the space reopened on January 13 as Au Feu, a concept that originally launched at Zeppelin Station in 2018 but closed there the next year.
While traveling through Montreal with his wife, Amanda, who is from Canada, Leonard was "particularly inspired by restaurants like Joe Beef and Au Pied du Cochon," he says, but his full vision for Au Feu wasn't a good fit in a food hall. The location north of West Washington Park, next door to Uncle and across the street from Carmine's on Penn, gave him the opportunity to fully bring his idea to fruition.
The result is a dark, elegant space filled with comfy velvet couches and Art Deco touches that bring to mind Paris in the 1920s. Unlike at the Zeppelin Station iteration of Au Feu, the menu goes beyond the Montreal-style smoked beef sandwich that was the main draw there (though it's still available for $17).
The roster includes French classics like salad Lyonnaise ($17), mussels ($18), steak frites ($31) and coq au vin ($24), along with cheese and charcuterie selections and the Canadian favorite poutine ($13), which can be leveled up with an optional smoked meat or foie gras add-on.
Rich foie gras also makes an appearance in a take on a dish made famous at Au Pied du Cochon: duck in a can ($36). There, the duck and foie is cooked sous-vide in a can and served tableside. At Au Feu, the presentation is currently sans can, but does include tender duck and foie gras served over a celeriac purée.
Also scoring high points for tenderness is the short rib bourguignon ($37) with pearl onions, carrots, mushrooms and lardons over a parsnip purée — a warming, comforting dish that pairs perfectly with a cold night and a glass of red wine.
Even if you're not a wine expert, sommelier Jeroen Erens, who has worked at Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Europe, can guide you through the all-French wine list, which includes eight by-the-glass options and 65 bottles alongside a selection of Cognac, Armagnac and eau de vie as well as Parisian cocktails.
What surprised us:
Tender short rib bourgoignon is an elevated comfort food.
The seating. Almost every table is low and surrounded by plush chairs and couches that make it seem like you're dining in a (very chic) friend's living room. The effect is a meal that feels less like a formal dining experience and more like a casual dinner party.
With everyone in your party leaning in to grab bites, conversation flows freely, and in between noshing, you can sit back, relax, and be lulled by the chatter of other guests and sips of vino. In fact, the comfort-first seating design basically begs you to order just one more glass of wine — which you should, because we all deserve a lingering respite in a space as inviting and indulgent as this.