Cleansing the Palette

There's Restaurant Kevin Taylor at Hotel Teatro (see Second Helping), Kevin Taylor at the Ellie, Kevin Taylor's Rouge at the Teller House, Prima here in Denver (see review), Prima in Boulder, and catering operations working out of at least three of those locations. Can Taylor possibly do anything else?

Why, yes. Yes, he can. Last week, the announcement came down that Taylor's Palettes will reopen in October -- most likely within a few days of the renovated Denver Art Museum being revealed to the public on October 7. Since the DAM debut is a major event (and because both Kevin and his partner, Denise Mease, were on vacation), I called Jennifer Land, Taylor's new private-dining-and-events manager, to get the details on Palettes, which had closed two years ago in anticipation of the DAM's remodel. "Things have been going really well," she told me. "I've already started booking some private parties. A lot of holiday parties have called looking for information."

One of Palettes' major improvements is a private dining room large enough to hold about fifty people. This room -- called the Duncan Pavilion -- is situated above the restaurant in a new space designed by local architects from the Davis Partnership and doesn't even count in Palettes' doubled floor space. During the reconstruction, Taylor and company -- who are leasing the location from the DAM, and using DAM funds to subsidize the renovations with an agreement that the money will be paid back in installments over the next ten years -- managed to annex both the old gift shop space and the old cafe that used to sit right next door. This will let Palettes seat over 150, depending on geometry. "We haven't even brought the tables in yet, so we're not sure," Land said. "But, yeah, something like 150 or 170."

Either way, it's a big room. And to fill it, Taylor is bucking conventional wisdom, which would seem to demand that he serve nothing but tacos, pancakes and buckets full of Red Bull and vodka, by going fancy-pants. "There'll be white tablecloths, centerpieces," Land explained. "Definitely more upscale than it was before."

Chef Dan Brown (ex of the Fourth Story, which seems to be staffing all of the town's restaurants since it closed) will be on the line overseeing day-to-day ops in the kitchen, and though the menu has yet to be finalized -- the opening is still more than two months off, after all -- Taylor seems to be leaning once again toward the straight, modern American cuisine that saw Palettes through its first incarnation. Only fancier.

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world: KT isn't the only fella with his eyes on all those fat wallets that'll be coming and going from the museum. Mad Greens partners Dan Long and Marley Hodgson are also getting in on the ground floor of the Museum Residences -- the one that wraps around the Cultural Center Parking Garage -- for what promises to be a huge, big-money tourist draw for years to come. Long and Hodgson (who already have Mad Greens outlets in Cherry Creek, at Park Meadows Mall and downtown at 1600 Stout Street) are shooting for an early-October opening, no doubt hoping, like Taylor, to ride the wave of press and curiosity to a killer first quarter. Like Palettes, they're moving into a space roughly double the size of their other Mad Greens locations.

The DAM version will seat roughly 200, both indoors and out, and they've enlarged their menu accordingly, adding breakfast, an expanded board of salads, soups and panini, and an array of "ready-to-eat" foods, according to Kristin Altman, who's handling communications for all of the food-service operations moving into the museum complex. This new Mad Greens will also have a wine bar and cheese board for all your après-art activities (though I can never remember whether it's red, white or rosé that goes with a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup).

And on October 12 -- just five days after the DAM opening -- a fifth Mad Greens will be unveiled in Boulder's 29th Street Shopping District, which replaced the old Crossroads Mall. Two openings in five days? That's insane. But when I told Hodgson as much, he just laughed. "Yeah, it's a lot," he said. "It's ambitious. But we're excited about the opportunities."

Leftovers: Kevin Taylor and the guys at Mad Greens aren't the only restaurateurs having a busy summer. John Holly of John Holly's Asian Bistro (9232 Park Meadows Drive in Lone Tree) is also going full steam ahead with plans to saturate the city with his name. For starters, there's John Holly on Downing, which just opened at 2422 South Downing Street and features a fusion menu of Chinese favorites and sushi from the bar. There's also a rumor that he's bringing sushi to what had been Emma's at 603 East Sixth Avenue.

"Maybe we will be going," Holly told me last week. "Maybe it will be something Japanese, I don't know."

Here's what he does know: He and a group of investors have taken over the space, and they have a liquor license. If and when they open a restaurant there, it will probably be called John Holly on 6th. But for the moment, he's just trying to get the Downing Street location up and running. "First we have to see how many spots I can do," he explained.

Holly's new spot on Downing is just a block away from Sonny Rando's old place, Santino's, which is now a Little India. Last week, Rando pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor -- felonies for which he'll be sentenced in September -- with both charges stemming from an incident when he allegedly slipped roofies to a girl who thought she was going out with Sonny to learn about food, wine and the restaurant business. Well, she did learn one important rule: Stay the fuck away from Sonny Rando. Really, though, that's a bit of advice that's been passed around the Denver restaurant scene for years.

At 1035 Pearl Street in Boulder, three-month-old Seven Eurobar has its patio open and is hosting "Sunday S.I.P.," meaning "Sunday Service Industry Parties," with drink specials and cut-rate tapas until 1:30 a.m. Not only that, but chef-owner Michel Wahaltere tells me that he's already in negotiations with Intrawest to open a second Seven in the new Snowmass Village.

This weekend, Troy Guard, executive chef for the Sullivan Restaurant Group, will attempt to do the impossible: convince a panel of distinguished chefs and judges at the Great American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans that we have edible seafood in Colorado. The contest will bring together about twenty chefs from across the country, requiring that each of them arrive ready to cook one dish that best reflects their regional seafood offerings. Guard, who says he's determined to show the nation that great seafood dishes can come even from a landlocked state like Colorado, will represent with a plate of grilled Colorado red trout over corn purée, a goat-cheese-stuffed Anaheim chile and caramelized Colorado peaches.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan