***A day late as usual, but I had no time to post on Sunday, as I was blowing through the galleys for my upcoming Food Lovers’ Guide to Denver & Boulder, which is finally nearing its to-press date. So yay.***
I’ve only got 2 cents to add to the huge pot staked on Williams & Graham, Sean Kenyon’s much-discussed LoHi bar. But add it I will—starting with damn, it’s dark in there! Almost ghostly, really: if you were to enter when the place was vacant, surveying the heavy woods & flickeringly low light & bookshelves, you could easily imagine you’d stumbled upon some long-abandoned, turn-of-the-century club where gentlemen with ivory canes & muttonchops once gathered over toddies to debate the electoral platform of Teddy Roosevelt.
Dispelling the near-gloom, however, is a bright-&-shiny staff that aims to know your name & your poison from the get-go (even when class-act Kenyon’s not in the house). On last week’s visit, our server was a dead ringer for the young Brigitte Bardot; how about that? The 1st round was a doozy, including a cocktail that deserves the title of Dish of the Week, liquid though it is, for being everything a beautifully made drink should be: the Tokyo Dagger (pictured left).
A blend of 12-year Japanese single malt with the herbal aperitif known as Bonal Gentiane-Quina & rich, raisinated Lustau San Emilio Pedro Ximenez Sherry, it demonstrates Kenyon’s trademark sense of balance. Every element falls seamlessly into place: the sweet & the savory, the bitter & the smooth, aromatics & mouthfeel. Nothing’s ever stark on the 1 hand or florid on the other. Equally exemplary in that regard is The Smoking Frenchman (pictured at bottom), whose list of ingredients alone reveals as much: cognac (warmth & old spice), ginger liqueur (sweetness & fresh spice), lemon bitters (acid & bittersweetness), & a Scotch rinse (smoke & earth). (Of course, the bar can whip up special requests with ease; I also knocked back a refreshing, vodka-spiked, sangria-like concoction after asking for a red-wine cocktail.)
My only minor beef is with the tiny menu; serving only a handful of dishes is in itself totally understandable as a means to keeping the focus on the booze, but by the same token, I’d get rid of larger plates entirely in favor of a greater variety of complementary bar snacks. In addition to the spiced caramel popcorn with peanuts (above right), we nibbled on the kitchen’s elegant version of steak & eggs,
which I mainly remember (see: 3 cocktails) for the perfectly medium-rare sear on the meat. Nice job so far. I plan to return very shortly, so I’ll be updating this post anon.
***UPDATE 5/23/12: See? That was fast. And now, I remember what those baguette-slice-looking things in the foreground of the above picture are: not bread at all but delicious pickled egg!
Speaking of eggs, the deviled halves I tried on my sophomore trip were a bit overcooked, stiff to the bite, but the filling was swell, sharp-edged with mustard & cayenne.
Even better, however—in fact, fantastic—was the slab of boar bacon with potato purée & wild mushroom fricassee.
The meat, almost pungently tangy with smoke—like barbecue—also shredded as cleanly as barbecue—but you know how everyone says bacon makes everything better (ad nauseam, so if you don’t, where’ve you been hiding)? In this case, it was the good old tubers & fungi that took that title, adding earthy undertones & creamy texture. So seemingly simple, yet so smartly realized.
It goes without saying that the drinks were as smashing as before—but what’s therefore worth noting is that Kenyon was in the house on neither visit; clearly, he’s got an eye for staff talent &/or a head for training. Besides the aforementioned Frenchman & my own glass of Sherry, I took a sip of our pal’s signature Blackberry-Sage Smash, containing a Knob Creek single-barrel exclusive(!) & a lip-smackingly juicy bushel of blackberries kept from frou-frou fruitiness by the assertively savory presence of fresh sage.
Nothing left to do but go back for dessert.