Camelia Serves Modern Mexican Fare on Broadway in Denver | Westword
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Restaurant Vets Are Serving Up Something Different at Camelia

A tomahawk steak with gold leaf, pink mole and truffle mac and cheese with salsa macha are all on the menu at this spot.
The pink mole at Camelia is made using hard-to-find pink-hued pine nuts.
The pink mole at Camelia is made using hard-to-find pink-hued pine nuts. Joni Schrantz
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"It was a lot of work. It took two years for the remodeling and getting licensed," says Camelia Robles, co-owner of Camelia, an upscale modern Mexican eatery that opened last year at 1055 Broadway.

Robles, who also owns La Machaca de Mi Amá and five Colorado locations of El Coco Pirata with her husband, Francisco Cuevas, teamed up with her cousin and the owner of Cilantro, Fidel Robles, and his wife, Maria Castaneda, on the project.

Opening an eatery downtown "was on the books for us," Robles notes, and "we have a good relationship with Regas," she adds, referring to CoClubs owner Regas Christou. Because of that connection, they found not one, but two spaces next door to each other that are owned by Christou. The fast-casual taqueria Cabrón Carbón opened first, in the former home of Quijote’s Broadway and Luciano’s Pizza and Wings before that. Camelia was added in August 2023, in the space that was the longtime home of the Living Room.

This spot leans more upscale than the group's other restaurants, and is inspired by the kind of elevated eateries found in Mexico City or Guadalajara. "We wanted to bring that level of service and level of attention and that fine-dining piece," says general manager Alberto Soto. "We want people to feel transported." That vision started with the design, which includes a revamped version of the large, long main bar right inside the front door, where you can belly up in a luxurious velvet chair.
click to enlarge interior of a restaurant with a bar and a wall covered in plants
The interior of Camelia is filled with eye-catching details.
Joni Schrantz

Much of the decor, including the thick tables made from blocks of wood, was brought in from Mexico. "All the owners traveled there to select everything carefully," Robles notes.

Exposed brick, eye-catching light fixtures and a wall covered in greenery all add to the atmosphere, which is ideal for date nights and special occasions — though you don't necessarily need a special reason to visit. "If you want to come to the bar and just have an appetizer and just try our new cocktails, Christian is so awesome," Soto says.

That would be beverage director Christian Cavalier, who has created a lineup of handcrafted cocktails that embrace trends, like the signature Camelia libation made with reposado tequila, raspberry rose shrub and Prosecco, which is topped with a bubble that pops, releasing smoke for an Instagram-worthy effect.
click to enlarge various food on plates
A tomahawk steak with gold leaf is one of the high-end options at Camelia.
Joni Schrantz
Much of Camelia's drink and food offerings are purposely photo-worthy, but the cuisine is more than just for show. Executive chef Mark Rybarczyk is only 21 years old, but he's been cooking since he was thirteen. Originally from Puerto Vallarta in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Rybarczyk has spent much of that time as a sushi chef. But at Camelia, he's been able to showcase recipes inspired by his mother as well as his fiancée, who is from Sinaloa. 

Because of Rybarczyk's background and the Robles's sourcing connections at El Coco Pirata, seafood is a highlight. There are fresh oysters as well as dishes like the bright and fresh shrimp, mahi mahi, octopus and callo de hacha (a type of scallop) ceviche with a nice punch of heat from habaneros.

The aguachile, which doubles as a play on tartare, is made with thin-sliced ribeye in a black broth that includes chiltepín chiles. There's also a whole octopus served with baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, asparagus and salsa macha that is charred on the Josper grill in the kitchen, which uses mesquite lump charcoal to cook over super-high heat.

That piece of equipment plays an important role at Camelia. It's also used for the selections of steaks on offer. "You get that smoke, you get that char," Soto says. "We're using super high-quality beef. The marbling on these steaks is ridiculous."
click to enlarge steak in a grill
A Josper grill is used in the kitchen at Camelia.
Joni Schrantz
The various cuts of beef are served simply, seasoned with just salt and pepper to let the tender meat shine. À la carte sides are available as well, including an ultra-creamy truffle mac and cheese. That may be an unexpected addition to a Mexican-focused menu, but it comes with a punchy addition — salsa macha — and pairs well with the steaks.

While steaks are a focal point of the menu, there's no need for every person at the table to order one. Instead, the play here is to try an appetizer or two and share a steak, leaving room for a little more exploration. That way, you won't miss options like the enmolada rosa, a pink mole that is popular in the Mexican state of Guerrero. The hue comes from several ingredients, including beets, red onions and hard-to-get (and pricey) pink-hued pine nuts from Mexico. Here the mole is served over braised chicken wrapped in tortillas with queso fresco.

Among the desserts created by pastry chef Mireya Domínguez is a Mexican chocolate cake that is flambéed tableside, melting its chocolate outer dome over the cake itself.

Now that the team has settled in, there are plans to expand the hours — by spring, Camelia will also open for brunch on the weekends. "Our team is amazing. We're always learning, always improving," Robles concludes. "We cannot wait for what's coming in 2024."

Camelia Modern Mexican Cuisine is located at 1055 Broadway and open from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday. For more information, visit cameliammc.com.
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