Last Friday, Larry Herz opened his new spot, Indigo, in the former home of Papillon Cafe, at 250 Josephine Street. The space has been stripped down, replacing Papillon's casual elegance with a spare, cool mix of light and dark blues -- including a great-looking tiled bar. Chef Ian Kleinman (formerly of Golden's Hilltop Cafe) and sous chef Ben Alandt (the artist formerly known as sous chef at 1515 Market) have put together a very ambitious menu. It's like they hung a blank piece of paper on the wall, mixed a dozen different world cuisines together in a bucket, and then splashed the mix on the paper to see what stuck. One item that landed on the menu, a lobster-and-shiitake-mushroom risotto made with English peas and topped with a lemon sabayon, has at least four culinary traditions duking it out on just one plate. I can't even imagine how the flavors come together in the "open-faced duck and brie ravioli in a lingonberry broth." And how about the "honey-lavender painted ahi tuna over a battered, fried portobello mushroom cap with macadamia nut sweet potato mousse"?
If it weren't for the fact that I've tasted Alandt's considerable talents at 1515 and know of Kleinman's by reputation, I'd be very wary of this menu. And if it weren't for the fact that Herz, the man who brought us Carmine's on Penn, recently stopped working at Bella Ristorante (although he maintains an ownership role in that restaurant at 8770 East Arapahoe Road) to focus on shaping Indigo, I'd be worried. The kitchen is presenting a weird, ungainly and oddly balanced board of fare -- but I've seen talented guys pull off stranger menus than this in spaces far less suited to culinary risk-taking. Kleinman is known (and loved) for the things he can do with soups and appetizers, Alandt is an artist with flavors and plate design, and Herz is a veteran operator who cut his teeth in the restaurant game more than two decades ago. These guys are the A-Team, and if anyone can pull it off, they can.
Not to be confused with Indigo, Intrigue is rushing to open this weekend at 275 South Logan Street, in the space that had been Nate's Contemporary American Cafe until the end of October. Jeff Cleary, formerly of Cafe Bohemia, has done a fast-forward job of converting the place into a French-American bistro. "Things are coming along well," he reports. Although he didn't have to do any structural work, the hardwoods have been restained, the walls have been painted in softer colors, and some of the tables and chairs have been replaced to give the dining room a larger, more comfortable feel. "We don't want people to feel intimidated," Cleary says. "I want people to feel like they can just come and hang out for hours."
But not before this Saturday. "My wife doesn't want me to open on Friday the 13th," Cleary explains, so they've targeted the opening for December 14. Check out the Web site www.intriguedining.com for updates, a peek at Cleary's sleek new menus, an extended bio on the chef and a killer deal: Fifty dollars' worth of complimentary gift certificates just for joining Intrigue's mailing list.
Also just under the wire: Aquarela, a Brazilian/French restaurant that opened last week at 3000 East Third Avenue (dinners only, right now); Casabona's, an Italian joint that replaces the Vietnamese/Italian/American Rose's Cafe in the 1515 Madison Street space that was once home to The Normandy; and Fat Daddy Urban Eatery, at 12 East 11th Avenue. The very urban Fat Daddy, which debuted this past Monday, boasts a Southern-comfort-style Creole and bayou menu and incredible hours: It will be dishing up the grits till 10 p.m. on weekdays and until 4 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Owner Regas Christou obviously knows his market: Fat Daddy stands at the center of Christou's nightclub empire and directly in the path of all those hungry club-goers come closing time.
The last opening of the year should be Ted's Montana Grill, which will roll out the bison-hide carpet on December 27 for the grand opening of a second Colorado location, this one at 1401 Larimer Street in Larimer Square. The newest link in the mega-chain being forged by Ted Turner and George McKerrow Jr. (of Longhorn Steakhouse fame) complements Ted's first metro spot, which has been up and running since November 4 at 7301 South Santa Fe Drive, in Littleton's Aspen Grove shopping center. And a second Hacienda Colorado started serving "mountain Mexican" and over a hundred tequilas -- some very choice (and pricey) -- last week at 10500 Bierstadt Way in Englewood. More Hacienda Colorados will soon follow; the original in this homegrown mini-chain remains at 5056 South Wadsworth Boulevard, Littleton.