This is part two of my interview with Patrik Landberg, exec chef of Charcoal. Part one of our conversation ran in this space yesterday.
Best thing about cooking in Denver: We're on the cusp of being a bona fide food-centric city that's about more than just a few good restaurants; there are many restaurants that are verging on greatness. I feel like I'm cooking in a city that's just beginning to go from good to great, and it won't be long before we can compare ourselves to New York City, San Francisco and Chicago. We've had many guests in from Tokyo, London or New York who have given us great reviews for our food, atmosphere and service. Denver also has great local produce, not to mention a lot of great individuals who want to put Denver on the culinary map.
Favorite Denver/Boulder restaurant(s) other than your own: Sushi Den has the best, most consistent sushi in town, and it's close to my home.
Favorite cheap eat in Denver: Mustard's Last Stand. My kids love it.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Small, individual, chef-owned restaurants that aren't uniformly perfect. Our restaurant is a culmination of many different ideas from around the world. The community table is more common in San Francisco; the wine wall is an idea from Asia; the open-kitchen concept came from Tokyo; the lighting is an inspiration from Paris; and the antique chandeliers above the chef's table, as well as the private dining room, were a conscious decision not to have everything new. We deliberately designed our restaurant so that it doesn't look like a chain, because we didn't want it to look perfect. Denver needs to continue to break away from big chain restaurants.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: Mediocre overpriced restaurants and fewer franchise-style restaurants. There are many people who like to go to franchises, but I wish people would try different kinds of cuisine and support more small local businesses.
Favorite restaurant in America: I still have many more places to go, but so far, my favorite is Saul, in Brooklyn, New York. The food is perfectly balanced and the presentations are great. Every time I've eaten there, I've always had something that makes me say "Wow." The service is unpretentious yet friendly and very attentive -- which isn't surprising, considering that the chef/owner worked with Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin for many years.