On Friday, October 25, chef Scott Parker, bar manager Michael Cerretani and the brass behind Breckenridge-Wynkoop will officially open Session Kitchen at 1518 South Pearl Street. And last week, during a tasting and tour, neighbors were peering through the windows, their mouths agape at the dramatic interior, an expansive two-story showstopper bedecked with striking architectural flourishes and bewitching design elements. Make no mistake: Session Kitchen is a restaurant that goes way beyond the ordinary.
Herewith, four reasons (and tons of photos) that showcase why I'm beyond excited about this Platt Park newcomer.
Chef Scott Parker and his innovative menu. For more than ten years, Parker quarterbacked the kitchen at Table 6, consistently turning out playful but focused plates of boldly-flavored comfort foods immersed in seasonality. Here, at Session, his menu, which favors ingredients that are cured, preserved and jarred, is still soaked in seasonality, but there's a novel twist to his presentations: They're all designed to be portioned according to the number of people who want to share the same dish. And if you order more than one "session" of each dish, the price deflates. A single session of Parker's pork belly and fermented apple-pear soup, for example, is $10; for every subsequent session, it's $8. And that's not all: Each session can also be served as a "nano" session, or half of a single session. I love that.
Parker's menu, which is categorized into "Jam Sessions," "Herb Sessions, "Wealth Sessions," "Group Sessions" and "Nom Sessions," the latter of which encompasses desserts, showcases funk and flair, a preference for the whole nose-to-tail thing, sustainable seafood and local agriculture. "The whole menu is all about the way people used to eat a long time ago on the farm," says Parker, adding that his menu is indicative of a "really simple, straightforward, cool and healthy way to share sessions." Most of the "Jam Sessions," which are starters, are served in jars, and the majority of his other dishes arrive in kaleidoscopic Staub cookware. Parker also created a "Shift Change" menu, served between 2 and 5 p.m. that, he says, "is a playground to try out some weird stuff -- things that we might put on the lunch or dinner menu if they're really popular."
Michael Cerretani's approach to cocktails. "I wanted to be on the same page as Scott, who's creating common food uncommonly well," says Cerretani, who's pioneering the cocktail program at Session. The list, divided into the four seasons, pimps tasters; sessions, the equivalent of one drink; double sessions; and cocktails for four, poured in an Erlenmeyer flask, or laboratory vessels. But what I'm most excited about are the funky ingredients that Cerretani is experimenting with: chia seeds in his daiquiri; champagne vinegar and spiced St. Germaine foam in a cocktail named "Pomaceous Fruit"; and smouldering applewood, which he uses to smoke his "Smokey & the European," a bourbon-based cocktail bolstered by green chartreuse and amaro. "We want to use recognizable ingredients," stresses Cerretani, "but we also want to put them together in ways that haven't been put together before." And, of course, if you're born out of indecisiveness, there's always the bartender's choice, and if the cocktails I sampled are any indication, Cerretani won't steer you wrong.
Wine and beer enthusiasm. Sixteen bottled beers, twelve draft lines, including beers from Breckenridge-Wynkoop, Renegade and Black Bottle Brewery, and a boutique wine list, directed by former Big Red F wine guru John-Mark Larter, who describes his syllabus as "wines with a purpose and expressive of the place they come from," round out the elevated beverage program. The beers, says Cerretani, will rotate every two to three months, and while the wine list isn't mammoth -- there are twenty reds and twenty whites by the bottle, and eight of each by the glass, Larter offers them, again, as sessions: by the glass, Erlenmeyer flask or bottle. And beers can also be poured in taster sessions.
It's the heart of art. Yes, it's a restaurant with multiple bars, but Session is also an art expedition, the result of more than a dozen renowned artists from around the world who contributed to designing the soaring space with everything from ornately sculptured stools constructed from recycled bicycles to florescent tubes that dangle from the bar ceiling and mimic a digital light display that changes colors. Session, the name, is grafittied across the north-facing wall, the big, bold, shadowed letters spray-painted crimson; a portrait of a "smoking woman," also saturated in red, hangs above the bar, and several lighting displays, including a Hitchcock-esque, three-tiered mobile of black-and-white birds all indigenous to Colorado -- great-horned owls, eagles, hawks and sparrows -- illuminate the space.
A staircase, welded with a quote from Shakespeare, leads to the "Session Bar," an intimate, platformed stage that overlooks the "Park Bar" below it, as well as the dining room, where a collection of booths and banquettes share square footage with "sessioning" community tables that all boast a shelf specifically designed to provide a surface to display drinks and cookware.
Upstairs, there's a floor-to-ceiling pillar intricately spray-painted street-art style with two women, both smoking, who seethe with sexy, come hither gazes, as well as a custom-made lumbered chef's table inscribed with a giant "S" created from a timeless collection of Rolling Stone magazines.
The bathroom walls and ceilings, all of which are vinyled with black-and-white lyrics, are conversation pieces of their own, and I'd be willing to bet that anyone who steps through the doors will exit with a song in their brain that they can't get out of their head.
The cutting-edge art installations, which also include exterior murals, are riveting, and it's not a stretch to say that Session doubles as a museum gallery.
I spent several hours at Session last week soaking up the scenery, sampling cocktails and eating my way through Parker's menu, and I was starstruck by my first impressions, which you can view in the photo gallery on the following pages.
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Session will be open, starting October 25, from 10 a.m. to close Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to close on Friday and Saturday.