The Crafted Concepts restaurant group, headed by chef Jennifer Jasinski and partner Beth Gruitch, initially announced plans to open Ultreia, a Spanish-Portuguese "gastroteka" inside Union Station, just over a year ago, but permitting and design-approval delays have pushed the opening date well beyond the original schedule. In fact, the team just received the go-ahead to begin the buildout earlier this month.
Union Station falls under the watchful eye of the National Park Service, adding an additional layer of bureaucracy to the usual city and state approvals needed. But now that contractors are getting to work on the space, Ultreia should be ready to open in November, according to chef Adam Branz, who has for the past few years headed the kitchen at Bistro Vendôme, another Crafted Concepts restaurant.
But Branz and his crew are getting anxious to serve Denver some of the tapas and other plates they've been working on for the past few months, so they're taking over Bistro Vendôme (1420 Larimer Street) on September 14 and 15 as a preview of what's to come at Ultreia. "It's been a slow, somewhat painful process, so this will be good for our energy," Branz says of the long wait to get the new restaurant open.
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While Bisto Vendôme's regular menu will be put on hold for the two nights, Branz notes that guests will be able to select from a slate representing about 75 percent of Ultreia's menu. That includes about twenty or so tapas, pintxos and petiscos (various forms of small plates from Portugal, Spain's Basque region and other parts of that country) divided into "manos desnudos" (bare hands) and "comiendo utensilios" (tools required). Under the former, you'll find marinated olives, pork ribs rubbed in Moorish spices, and acorn-fed jamón Ibérico, while the latter offers soups, salads and various vegetable preparations.
"Some of them are classical dishes at their core," Branz explains, while others have a more modern spin. There will also be a selection of a half-dozen "raciones" (large plates), ranging from spicy piri piri chicken to octopus stew with pork ribs and chorizo, as well as two dessert selections.
Sherry and gin tonics (as gin-and-tonics are called in Spain) will be the stars at the bar, along with Spanish and Portuguese wines, including bottles from the restaurant's namesake label made by Bodegas y Viñedos Raúl Pérez. Reservations for either night can be made by calling the restaurant at 303-825-3232. The Ultreia menu will be served during Bistro Vendôme's regular hours (5 to 10 p.m. Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday), with Branz and Jasinski in the kitchen both nights.