Christopher Lin and Jonathan Pinto have worked together in restaurants for years, but not in Denver. Although Pinto grew up in Colorado, he moved to New York City and worked front-of-house positions, where he met Lin, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, who was focusing on a career in high-end Japanese and Chinese eateries. After forming a friendship, the two decided to move to Denver to launch their own project. The result will be Q House, which is expected to open in the first quarter of 2018 at 3421 East Colfax Avenue.
Along the way, Pinto met bar manager Jennifer Mattioni while the two were working at Candela Latin Kitchen (and its previous incarnation, Central Bistro & Bar). Mattioni, who has also worked at Mezcal and Leña, signed on as the third partner in the endeavor.
"We watched our passions develop and build," Pinto explains of the group's focus on opening its own restaurant. Lin's family is Taiwanese, so the cuisine of Taiwan will be a big part of Q House, along with influences from various regions of China.
"We're going to mine a lot of my Chinese background," the chef says."It's very much a part of my soul."
The name of the restaurant comes from the concept of Q, "which is Taiwanese slang for 'perfectly done,'" Mattioni explains. Lin adds that "Q" is typically used to describe the springy or chewy (in an al dente way) texture of starchy foods like bao buns, noodles and rice, but has come to be used to described well-cooked food in general.
In addition to his family's cooking, Lin's experience includes time at Koi, a Japanese restaurant in New York City; he also worked for chef/restaurateur David Chang for nearly five years. Since moving to Denver, he has worked at Old Major and several other restaurants while building the business plan for Q House with Pinto.
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Q House will occupy 1,600 square feet in a building that is being refurbished on the eastern end of what's now being called Colfax Avenue's Bluebird District (though Mattioni points out that they're part of the South City Park Neighborhood Association). Decades of bad architecture have been stripped away from the facade of what was most recently a computer repair shop; the other half of the building will become a bar called the Middleman under separate ownership.
The interior configuration will comprise an open kitchen with a central bar and a chef's counter, with room for fifty guests; there will also be a sidewalk patio with twenty seats. The kitchen will have a custom wok setup, and Lin's menu will focus on shareable dishes and small plates, reminiscent of the way his family eats. "Everything hits the table hot, and everyone just digs in," he says.
Mattioni adds that she's "picking wine and cocktail and beer that will complement the food." Cocktails will be built around bright citrus flavors and tropical ingredients like soursop, lychee and lemongrass.
While the three were originally targeting a January 2018 opening, they're now thinking February or March because of delays typical for restaurant buildouts in Denver these days.