Which I guess would be an acorn, fittingly enough for a place that’s as yet but a sapling in restaurant years & will presumably have years to grow big & mighty: the food at this Frasca spinoff is already good, though there’s plenty of room for it to get even bigger & conceptually bolder. At least I hope there’s room in the kitchen, since there wasn’t an inch of breathing space in the dining room the night I was there—such was the crush of Boulderites rushing toward the sound of owner Bryan Dayton’s cocktail shaker, yielding drinks that are not only already good but damn near perfect.
Take The Monk’s Garden,
exhilaratingly dewy with tarragon-infused vodka, green chartreuse, lavender simple syrup, cucumber & lime. Or the equally juicy Mo’s Special—
with gin, Strega, Poli Miele, blood orange, Meyer lemon & a froth of egg white, it looks & sounds frou-frou but tastes superfresh—fruity but not fruity.
My hands-down fave, however, was the after-dinner Closing Act; read all about my most recent Dish of the Week here.
My only beef with the fried farm pickles accompanied by green goddess aioli
was that the flesh of the thick-cut slices was searingly hot, making it hard to bite into & chew, so instead it just sort of slid down, defeating the purpose of actually savoring it. Still, what I could glean was the fineness of both the pickling (the difference between a mass-produced & a small-batch pickle is astounding) & the batter-frying, just so much semitranslucent, golden-brown crackling. (It occurs to me that in terms of its gratifying gloss & pull, its closest referent would be a giant scab, which may sound less appetizing than it does accurate in the absence of a nitpicking fetish. I happen to have one, so the idea perversely appeals.)
Even better was the chewy olive oil–grilled bread topped with roasted mixed mushrooms & excellent whipped ricotta: comfortingly simple, gently savory, satisfying.
In fact, the vegetarian dishes proved the cream of the evening’s crop; roasted root vegetables with heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, breadcrumbs & herbs were earthy, hearty & creamy not least in their own juices;
if I were a vegetarian with eyes for a carnivore, this would be the dish I’d use as a compatability litmus test. If he merely balked at the lack of meat, I’d chuck him.
By comparison, the sliders—braised meatballs on cheese “gougers,” a cute little typo for gougères—
were surprisingly bland, unless you count the too-sweet tomato gravy they were drenched in, making me pine for Elise Wiggins’s veritable glowing spheres of juicy burger joy. And the high hopes I had for the rigatoni with rock shrimp were dashed at 1st bite;
my pal Mo (yes, the namesake of the aforementioned quaff) had questioned the wisdom of going to a restaurant to order a type of pasta that’s invariably boxed rather than house-extruded, & she had a point—might as well boil that up at home. Meanwhile, the sauce seemed to be little but butter, juice from the shrimp, maybe a touch of tomato, & rather too much salt. Surely, however, the fact that ex-Frasca chef Steve Redzikowski trained as a saucier at Le Cirque means he’ll be getting right on those adjustments; no reason this dish can’t be every bit as good as it sounded with a few tweaks.
In short, OAK at Fourteenth is already sprouting forth from the solid bole of jazzy comfort; I expect it be spreading even snazzier boughs in no time.