"I'm making things that I want to eat, food that's fun for us to make -- and not pretentious -- and food that we're proud to serve," says Brett Shaheen, the executive chef of the Wooden Table, a new Italian restaurant that opens today at 2500 East Orchard Road in Greenwood Village.
Shaheen, who's spent the last four and a half years working alongside Frank Bonanno -- "I wouldn't be doing this without Frank," he admits -- at Luca D'Italia and Osteria Marco, where he was the executive chef, teamed up with Jane Knauf, a former executive at the Magnolia Hotel, to open the Wooden Table. Earlier this week he held a staff tasting, which he allowed me to crash.
I love both Osteria Marco and Luca, and after sampling more than a dozen of Shaheen's dishes, it's clear that he's confident running his own show. "I didn't want to work for other people any longer," he admits, "and I knew that I could open a restaurant that was really good."
Behold our photo gallery of the terrific foodstuffs coming out of Shaheen's kitchen.
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Arugula and fried oyster mushroom salad with fennel, shaved Pecorino and a truffled vinaigrette. Frutti de mare crudo: shrimp, scallops, marinated baby octopus and tonnato wreathed with fresno chile oil. Chicken liver mousse smeared on crostini topped with currants and paired with ropes of red peppers and pickled chiles. Fresh, housemade mozzarella with roasted shallot-dressed panzenella salad mixed with grilled pesto croutons, tomatoes, capers and fresh basil. Parmesan and housemade mozzarella and ricotta ravioli slicked with tomato sauce fragrant with fresh basil. Housemade pappardelle pasta with shards of braised duck leg and grilled escarole. Berkshire pork tenderloin straddling a wedge of apple-and-ham-hock bread pudding sitting a pool of green split peas. Roasted duck breast with cannellini beans, escarole, braised duck leg and sausage ragu, and spiced cider reduction. Grilled organic Shetland salmon festooned with grilled julienned vegetables and plated with saffron whipped potatoes. Seared diver scallops squatting on a crisp baccala cake ringed with salsa verde. Mussels and housemade sausage bobbing in a saffron-laced broth floating with shaved fennel and tomatoes. The dining room at the Wooden Table. The restaurant's focal point, appropriately, is a wooden community table.