"Since the beginning, our goal has been seasonal, local and totally transparent to our guests from the moment they walk in the door." That's how Paul Reilly, chef/co-owner of Beast + Bottle, at 719 East 17th Avenue, describes his restaurant's mission.
Celebrating six years in business this month, Beast + Bottle, which is also run by Aileen Reilly and JP Taylor, is making big changes to its menu, but not to the mission. "Six years in, we as a dining culture — in Denver and the rest of the country — have changed a lot," Reilly explains. "It's time we made some adjustments here for that."
The new slate is designed for people who may not have as much time as diners once did, but who want to "eat well and hang out at a fun place," according to the chef. The printed menu is divided into snacks, appetizers, pizzas, lamb, "not lamb" and plats du jour.
Every Monday as long as Beast + Bottle has been open, Reilly has brought in a whole lamb that's then been butchered and used for dishes for the rest of the week, so he decided to emphasize that fact by grouping the dinner plates (sized a little smaller and priced lower than standard restaurant entrees) by "lamb" and "not lamb." Since every part of the animal is used, you'll find shaved lamb in the French dip finger sandwiches and shoulder in the ragu served over pappardelle. Other cuts are ground into sausages and lamb burgers, and the belly is turned into pancetta that's served with gnocchi. The kitchen has always been driven by creativity, so the cuts and preparations will continue to change, but there will always be plenty of lamb.
The "not lamb" roster includes seafood, chicken, pork and beef; right now you'll find pork shoulder confit, braised giant octopus and roast chicken with skin so crackly heads will turn when you cut into it. The quarter chicken comprises the leg and thigh; the breast finds its way into terrines, and the livers are made into mousse. For the plats du jour, each weeknight presents a different special, including pork spare ribs on Mondays, steak frites on Wednesdays and a blackened fish sandwich with fries on Fridays.
Reilly's personal relationships with purveyors allow him to land hard-to-find specialties, whether from Colorado or from his seafood sources on the coasts. Chicken comes from McCauley Family Farm in Boulder County, where Reilly also buys dried fermented chile flakes made by farmer Marcus McCauley. Black cod collar on the current menu came from a California fisherman who called the chef to offer him a deal; the fish was in Beast + Bottle's kitchen the day after the phone call.
Fans of the restaurant won't soon forget the Fig & Pig pizza; it's not going anywhere. In fact, Reilly has expanded the pizza program to include three offerings, all served on pizza crust made with house-milled wheat, amaranth and spelt.
Lamb jerky made from a cut left over from boning lamb legs; sweet potato tots, which may shift to other vegetables seasonally, such as last fall's kabocha squash tots; olives in the style of the Reillys' other restaurant, Coperta; and guanciale butter toast make up the snacks, all priced from $5 to $7. At the bar, expect the same thoughtful wine list and music-themed mixed drinks, along with a new tap handle dedicated to a draft cocktail.
The beast and the bottle are still the emphasis at this Uptown eatery, even if the menu has evolved to keep up with our dining habits.
Beast + Bottle is open daily from 5 p.m. for dinner, with brunch served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Call 303-623-3223 or visit the restaurant's website for details and reservations.
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