Restaurant Reviews

Review: Stoic & Genuine Is a Keeper

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When Stoic & Genuine opened in early July, expectations ran sky-high. This wasn't surprising, considering it was the first venture from partners Beth Gruitch and Jennifer Jasinski since the latter had nabbed a James Beard award for Best Chef Southwest. Those expectations were pushed to the exosphere when the restaurant, which had been the last to sign at Union Station, became the first to open -- this despite a concept change from Mexican to seafood. As the beneficiary of the city's pent-up excitement about a makeover to rival the Ferry Building in San Francisco and New York's High Line, Stoic & Genuine has done a banner business, doubling projections the first few months. You can already see the same changes afoot in LoDo as in Manhattan's meatpacking district, as revitalization ripples out from this new anchor of energy.

But urban renewal and a nationally acclaimed chef are only two parts of Stoic & Genuine's big picture. The city's best-known fish houses -- Jax, Ocean Prime and McCormick & Schmick's -- are a stone's throw away. The pair's other restaurants -- Rioja, Bistro Vendôme and Euclid Hall -- are within walking distance. So when Jasinski explains that Stoic & Genuine grew out of "thinking about what do you want to eat in town that's not already here," you know she was thinking about more than oysters and composed plates of sole. After all, the last thing a restaurateur wants to do is cannibalize her own business.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, Jasinski and chef de cuisine Jorel Pierce created an all-day menu of dishes from coastal communities -- not just the East and West coasts, but the Pacific Rim and Europe, as well. With a large selection of raw-bar items, small plates, sandwiches and à la carte sides, as well as a small section of hot, entree-sized dishes, meals take less of a starter-main-dessert format and resemble more of a graze. The menu feels quirky, as though you're at a seafood-inspired Euclid Hall, and while this might disappoint some Rioja-loving guests (not to mention people looking for sea-based comfort food), it fits the casual way that many diners eat today.

The best way to build a meal is to scan the menu and order the first thing that catches your eye. Chances are it's a small plate, and you'll wind up ordering several more before you're done. Oysters are a must, not just because of the selection from both coasts, but because of the sauces they're served with. In addition to complimentary mignonette, horseradish, cocktail sauce and lemon, granitas can be added for $2.50. I don't suggest them for the creamy Kumamotos from Washington or WiAnnos from Massachusetts; to me, that's like putting ketchup on caviar. But neutral varieties benefit from such icy blends as tarragon-cucumber and lychee-sake. Purists can always drink the granitas instead; most flavors are offered as boozy beverages, a fun touch that Jasinski borrowed from her wedding.

Another must is the crab-mango salad, a dish that fans might recognize from Jasinski's cookbook, The Perfect Bite. With an intriguing mix of flavors and textures -- tempura-battered shiso leaves, creamy avocado, slick mango and tatsoi -- and a generous tangle of Dungeness crab, the salad can work as a main course. The same can't be said of the other salads, which are served in small bowls without protein. Pair the broccoli salad, with slices of apple and avocado and a yuzu-sesame dressing, with another plate with an Asian profile, though, and you'll have a winsome meal. Two of the best options: the hamachi sashimi, with smoked and raw pear, sliced grapes and a slice of Riesling-pear gelée that playfully mimics raw fish in color and texture; and the flash-seared scallop, with a subtle panna cotta made of lemongrass-infused coconut milk, plantain crisps and pineapple compote. But the salad of roasted squash and bok choy was strictly catch-and-release: Both times I tried it, the delicata and butternut squash swam in oily agrodolce. Keep reading for more on Stoic & Genuine.

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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz