Posts Tagged ‘Denver Restaurants’

Colt & Gray Denver ~ Brunch

Posted 30 Mar 2012 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Food Alert Trends

Over the past couple of years I haven’t spent much time talking about breakfast and brunch. During that time the trend tracking restaurant experts have predicted the continued disintegration of the traditional restaurant  day-part (breakfast , lunch and dinner) and the ongoing expansion  of hours that serve what is being called the “all day eater.” My own research over the past two years confirms this change particularly in the QSR and fast casual segment but only recently have I noticed more and more fine, full service restaurants moving into the breakfast and brunch day-part in an effort to capitalize on potential new revenues built on existing fixed costs. Starting in January I am making a conscious attempt to gather information on breakfast and brunch in the fine, full service segment to see if expansion in this day-part that fine restaurants historically have neglected is occurring. My research starts in Denver.

While in there last month a chef friend recommended that I visit Colt & Gray for brunch to check out their take.  Five of us made our way to the corner of Platt and 16th streets in Denver late one morning. It was sunny out and the sky was a deep Denver blue. The restaurant is located in a renovated three story red brick building just west of the Platt River in an area of Denver that has been on the rise for more than a decade. We enter and quickly find a table.

The menu is both creative and expansive with items like crispy raisin bread pudding, house scrapple with fennel and kimchee, house smoked trout with scrambled eggs, house made corned beef hash with poached eggs and a special of Merguez sausage, crispy foie gras potatoes, Frisee and poached eggs. I also like the “kitchen sink” breakfast sandwich with sausage, egg, cheese, gravy, bacon, fries on a bun. It’s more of a “heart attack on a plate” than anything but from what I hear it’s one of the best-selling items on the menu. The Dal Makhani with creamy curried lentils served in a Staub cast iron cocotte warm flat bread, fried eggs and an added side of braised lamb tongue is unique in composition and creativity and attracts our attention as well.  Perhaps, as I think to myself quietly, part of the evolving breakfast trend is driven by the desire for people to find a finer level culinary excess during breakfast, a meal-period that otherwise is served only by the more traditional offerings of the quick service segment. Colt & Gray has found a niche in serving this desire.

Most of the seats at the bar are occupied and I notice the drink menu is playfully divided into two categories “recovery” and “retox” with the recovery drinks light on alcohol and high in creativity and the retox items more aggressive with alcohol and served in pitchers because “brunch is social.”  Coffee consists of a selection of locally roasted options in traditional form and Teatulia tea is served.  The food and beverage options are thoughtful and well executed while demonstrating flourishes of creativity for this day-part. Colt & Gray is solid evidence that there is room for a return to quality brunch service in the fine full-service segment. As much as I used to hate rising early on weekend mornings to run brunch service after a late Friday and Saturday dinner closing, it’s hard to deny the value of generating additional revenue during the morning when your restaurant would otherwise be empty. Now I just need to decide whether to choose “recovery” or “retox” with my kitchen sink sandwich.


Charcuterie Platter with Country Pate and Triple Cream Cheese

Merguez Sausage, Crispy Foie Gras Potatoes, Frisee & Poached Eggs

Kitchen Sink Breakfast Sandwich, Sausage, Egg, Cheese, Gravy, Bacon, Fries, Bun

Dal Makhani, Creamy Curried Lentils with Warm Flat Bread, Fried Egg (with added Braised Lamb Tongue)

Duroc Pork Chop, Two Eggs, Grits, Red Eye Gravy

Colt & Gray

1553 Platte Street #120
Denver, CO  80202


Cholon Modern Asian Bistro: Denver

Posted 21 Feb 2012 — by S.E.
Category Food Alert Trends, Full Service

When I first met Lon Symensma he was headed to the Culinary Olympics in Berlin Germany as a member of the U.S. National Apprentice Team in 1996. Under the watchful eye of the gentle and gentlemanly uber-coach and former H.J. Heinz Corporate Chef Roland Schaeffer, Symensma and his team were shining stars that placed in the top ten in their division. Symensma was clean cut possessing great energy and a good foundation of culinary skills having completed his initial training at Scott Community College in Davenport Iowa.  Sixteen years later Symensma is owner of Cholon Bistro in Denver and, word has it, a soon-to-be nominee for a James Beard Award this year.

That Symensma pursued his dream of opening his own restaurant is what I admire most about him. Many of the other chefs I knew in the 1990’s who competed at the international level chose professional careers in higher education or at country clubs or hotels. Very few pursued sole proprietorship; the ratio of risks to rewards being too great. However, Symensma kept his head on straight, paid his dues internationally and, eventually, went on to run the kitchen at Buddakan in New York City, one of the highest grossing restaurants in the country.

When I caught up with Symensma in Denver recently, he laughed about his time at Buddakan and suggested the four years he spent there took a decade off of his life. Having dined a Buddakan back when he was there, there is probably some truth to his comment. Buddakan is a massive restaurant and one of the flagship stores for Stephen Starr Restaurants out of Philadelphia. When I visited  in 2007 the house was full and the kitchen was cranking. The volume of food produced was staggering, it was not a kitchen for the faint of heart.

Fast forward to 2011 and Symensma is in Denver having flown close to the flame in New York. Paired with former CIA classmate Alicia Pokoik Deters and her husband Jim, the three formed Flow Restaurant Group, opening Cholon as a first concept in 2010. Symensma crafted a menu that is approachable and aligned with the clientele in Denver while honoring his eclectic Asian style. The bistro itself is modern in décor with a massive custom wooden door, concrete floors, exposed ceiling and large informal dining room (no tablecloths here) with open kitchen along an interior wall. During service Symensma stands in starched whites at the kitchen counter, back to the crowd, expediting with customers seated to his left and right.

His food is better at Cholon than it was at Buddakan, probably due to smaller size and better attention to detail. However, the food is more rustic. His Kaya Toast with Egg Cloud is rich and creamy with tremendous flavor and the French Onion Soup Dumplings are a great contemporary take and a classic. My favorite dish is the Singapore Style Lobster with Sunny Side Egg and Bao Buns. This isn’t fine dining or modernist cuisine but it is great local food at a fair price with fantastic service. The restaurant is loud and full of energy and the city of Denver has embraced it but I estimate Cholon does the same volume in a week that Buddakan used to do in a day. Symensma has proven he has capacity for more. I predict that he is just starting what will become a regional restaurant empire as Cholon settles in and he gets back to his fighting weight.


Beef Tar Tar, Chinese Mustard, Tapioca Puffs

Soup Dumplings, Sweet Onion and Gruyere

Kaya Toast, Coconut Jam, Egg Cloud

Pork Belly Pot Stickers

Singapore Style Lobster, Sunny Side Egg, Bao Buns

Vegetable Fried Rice with Poached Egg

Cholon Modern Asian Bistro

155 Blake St.

Denver, CO


Fruition Restaurant: Chef Alex Seidel is Inspired in Colorado

Posted 28 Oct 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Full Service

Fruition’s Pasta Carbonara

I love that Denver chef Alex Seidel of Fruition Restaurant was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef 2010. His elevation nationally offers further proof that Denver is becoming a real fine dining restaurant town worthy of mention, not just a hot-bed for quick service restaurants and full service chains. Many of us in the biz know that the city is a proving ground for innovative quick service and full service restaurants destined for multi-unit greatness. Noodles & Co founder Aaron Kennedy started in Cherry Creek in 1995, Qdoba was started in Denver in 1995 and, best of all, Steve Ells started his 1000 store Chipotle Mexican Grill empire in Denver back in 1993. Even Quizno’s traces its origins back to Denver in 1978. Denver invented the fast casual genre and Steve Ells has proven that you can serve fast food of outstanding quality and integrity. However, for many years the fine dining segment of the market in Colorado lagged. Today, this is not the case.

Denver has emerged over the past five years as a great restaurant town. Food & Wine’s nod to Seidel has added another fresh face to the small number of elite chefs in metropolitan Denver and confirms that the fine dining trend is building. Seidel now joins other local chefs that have made their mark on Denver such as Jennifer Jasinski, Kevin Taylor, Radek Cerny, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, and, of course, Frank Bonanno the king of Denver chef/restaurateurs.

Seidel earned his street cred working for Bonanno at Mizuna before striking out on his own in 2007. Accolades soon followed and by 2010 he had earned multiple awards, a great write up in the New York Times and the Food & Wine distinction. As has been the case at other restaurants, Seidel is known for several dishes including his pasta carbonara (photo above), a dish that he will probably have to keep on the menu forever. The dish is composed of a base of fresh cavatelli with peas, a slab of locally sourced pork belly, a sous-vide egg, and home-grown pea tendrils grown at Seidels Fruition Farm (yes, he has a wonderful farm pumping out ingredients for the restaurant, what a dream!). This is a fantastic dish, sensual, full of texture and flavor.

Another dish that a few locals suggested I try is the potato wrapped oysters Rockefeller. Seidel takes a fresh shucked oyster, wraps it in a thinly sliced raw potato chip and fries the cylinder until crisp. Served with bacon lardons, spinach, and a parmesan leek emulsion, the dish is a play on contrasts of flavor and texture. It really doesn’t resemble oysters Rockefeller at all but the concept is good and it’s innovative, not to mention the fact that I love fried oysters in any form.

The Pan Roasted New Zealand Bass is another strikingly beautiful dish and I love Seidel’s interpretation of risotto using diced potato and broccoli puree. He serves this with truffled cauliflower salad, additional broccoli florets, shaved carrots and micro greens. When asked whether the bass was farmed or wild caught from New Zeeland, my server went blank and had to run to the kitchen. This was disappointing but understandable since the autumn menu had only been out for a week. Still…

What do you think of Buttermilk Fried Chicken Confit with Crème Fresh whipped potatoes, haricots verts, glazed baby carrots, and button mushroom gravy? I know fried chicken is in. Both Art Smith (of Art& Soul fame) and Thomas Keller (at Ad Hoc) have fried chicken nights that require reservations a week in advance. Fried chicken is in and has been for a couple of years. However, who would have thought to confit the chicken before frying it. This dish is right on all levels. I love it! What a great idea.


My final dish of the night was a nice bread pudding with Colorado peaches and raspberries with ice cream. Desserts at Fruition are emerging but still a work in progress. They are very good but the savory cooking shines brighter and offers more innovation as noted earlier. Having eaten many of the other great restaurants in Denver, Frution is in the top five and Alex Seidel has the culinary chops and vision to bring even greater depth to the Denver dining scene. Three years in and Fruition is absolutely fantastic.

Fruition Restaurant

1313 E. 6th Avenue

Denver, CO 80218