Though my arrival in Denver only slightly preceded chef Duy Pham’s departure, I’d certainly heard tell of his exploits, so I was psyched for the opportunity to preview Epernay, the sleekly swanky, slyly clubby downtown restaurant & lounge that’s opening on Tuesday to mark his return to our fair city.

Now that I’ve had it, my curiosity isn’t sated. That’s a compliment; rather, I’m all the more intrigued at the thought of returning on my own dime—or rather dollar (cheap eats these ain’t)—when it’s in full swing to answer certain questions. For instance, will the service be as solicitous when I’m not an invited guest & the house is packed? Because on Saturday night, every detail was certainly seen to, promptly & with care, right down to the charming delivery of sushi condiments. (As someone who practically drinks the stuff like water on a daily basis, I’m all for nursing a veritable coffeepot of soy sauce.)

And: will I need to manually count the number of Champagnes on its list & that of Corridor 44 to confirm whether Epernay’s claim to the largest selection in town is true (it’s named, after all, for a town in the region, albeit sans accent over the initial E)? Are they including non-Champagne labels, of which they offer a number, in their tally? Eh, I don’t really care, so long as they’ve got some bottles I want to drink—& they do, e.g. Laurent Perrier & a couple of Alsatian sparklers that pique my interest. (One suggestion though: can we get a few more grower producers on there, like Chartogne-Taillet or Jacques Defrance?! I’ll totally be your best friend! Hell, if you can score an older vintage or 2 of Defrance’s Rosé des Riceys—one of the region’s few still products—like the ’82 or ’75 I tried last fall on a visit,

I’ll be your bitch 4lyfe.)

And: will geoducks make regular appearances among your specials, as they did the other night in sushi form? Because yay!

No questions about the regular menu, only praise for the chef so far. Whole-grain mustard vinaigrette furnished this gorgeous chunk of pork belly over mac & cheese with an unexpected touch of elegance;

a dish of poached salmon came together beautifully with parsnip puree, pine-nut pesto & especially those seriously luscious sous vide tomatoes mixed with braised fennel;

my companion’s perfectly cooked strip loin over bacon-fat baby potatoes & brussels sprouts boasted a blue-cheese foam that really made the dish—a heavier sauce would’ve been too much;

& best of all, maple crème brûlée with candied pecans & bacon bits was rendered with surprising delicacy. (How many exceptions to the rule of my indifference to custard must I encounter before the rule is null?)

When I return for a review rather than a preview, though, I’ll be all about the sushi—the full list of which wasn’t available during the soft opening—& the sake; I actually like the looks of that selection better than I do the sparklers. Stay tuned.

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