There's a new cub in the Culinary Creative Group family of restaurants: Mister Oso is ready to start serving late this week in the former Populist spot at 3163 Larimer Street, with chef Blake Edmunds at the helm.
Like Edmunds's other baby, Señor Bear, this eatery will feature Latin American food from across the region, but with a special emphasis on Peruvian and Mexican cuisine and beverages. Expect to sip an expertly made pisco sour by bar manager Tamsen Braam while indulging in new dishes unique to this RiNo restaurant, such as grilled romaine caesar salad, Mexican-style shrimp cocktail, and rotating seasonal ceviches that may be marinated in a citrus- and ginger-tinged mezcal sauce, like the albacore, tomato, avocado and jalapeño version the kitchen will be dishing out when it opens.
"With this type of cuisine, it's expected to be bright and spicy, the Sichuan of Latin America food, and it gives a little energy boost," says Nina Blick, general manager of Mister Oso. "We really want this restaurant to have a fun and lively environment, too."
Don't miss the shaved Brussels sprouts salad with avocado, quinoa, roasted almond, dried cantaloupe and cotija cheese; it's addictive and totally crave-able. There's also a whimsical take on the classic American taco salad, which is elevated by stacks of crispy tortilla rounds laden with seasoned ground beef, sliced olives and lettuce; instead of the usual cheap orange cheese gracing the top, you get a a mound of mimolette, an electric-orange French cheese that has a smooth, nutty and caramel-like essence that makes this particular dish seems way more fancy than it is. Edmunds suggests cracking it up through the top and eating it like nachos, which works well.
Most of the meat comes smoked; get it on a platter for a do-it-yourself taco dish accompanied by duck-fat-fried flour or corn tortillas (the kitchen will fry them in avocado oil for those who don't want meat) from Abbondanza in Boulder. We sampled the juicy and citrus-tinged carnitas and the flank steak with chimichurri, both paired with a whole fried jalapeño, pickled red onions, salted cabbage and fresh cilantro.
The drink menu includes both mocktails and cocktails, with tipples organized by alcohol; there's a section for large-format beverages such as boozy punches. The focus is mezcal, tequila and pisco, and while the paloma and mojito sound classic, Braam promises that they both contain a little surprise.
"We really wanted to balance the smoked meat out with nice, refreshing drinks," explains Braam. "Think twists on the classics that go really well with what we're making in the kitchen."
Mister Oso took over the Populist spot when it closed on August 10. While the Populist's Instagram-famous patio and twinkling lights will remain much the same, the interior got a Latin American makeover, which the team was working hard on finishing when we visited late last week. High-top tables line the wall by the front door, and a banquette flanks the other side. Colorful, parrot-themed wallpaper adds some whimsey to the bright space, which looks and feels a lot like the energetic menu.
The patio will be bigger by next spring, says Braam, who used to manage the Populist; Mister Oso also hopes to add walk-up menu items like shaved al pastor for those looking to get a quick bite and drink.
The official opening date isn't set, but owners are targeting between Wednesday, November 13, and Friday, November 15. Once the doors are unlocked, expect Mister Oso to serve dinner seven nights a week, with brunch and lunch hours coming soon.
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