Usually, I hate vertical presentations. When food is twisted, tortured and stacked into quivering minarets on a plate, it's often done without reason: That's art, not cooking. The difference here was that Moscatello had stacked his food because it had to be eaten that way. Without the vertical construction, the dish would have been nothing more than a gloppy mess of fruit, eggs, shredded potatoes and steak -- a Denny's Grand Slam venison breakfast.
The Variations of Chocolate, in contrast, was a deconstructionist's delight: three chocolates done six different ways, in a spire that had to be knocked over before it could be eaten but was luscious and decadent once the destruction was complete. Stephanie Cina, who creates all of the desserts, layered flavors in another successful offering: a plate of fresh chunks of strawberry drizzled with aged, sweet balsamic vinegar that was wonderful -- stinging, bitter, sweet and sour, all at the same time. This came paired with smooth chocolate ice cream and caramelized sugar tuilles that lent class and delicacy to a dessert that hit with all the subtlety of a punch in the mouth.
Seven months after it opened, with a new winter menu firmly in place, the kitchen falling nicely into a groove, the jackets off and the staff finally able to relax, Adega is turning into the restaurant it always wanted to be. Yes, there's a part of me that wants to make fun of its pretension and pointless fluffery -- but there's a bigger part of me that loves it, that applauds and appreciates the urge to go all the way. Is it expensive? You bet. But what you're buying is a seat at the table of a restaurant that transcends the Denver scene, and is growing -- meal by meal, night after night -- into its reputation as a world-class restaurant.