…You know, like the prize boar in Animal Farm, whose name chef-owner Justin Brunson (of Masterpiece Deli &, more to the point, Denver Bacon Company) took for his ridiculously hot new LoHi spot. Others (such as the Denver Post) have noted the aptness of the moniker insofar as Orwell’s pig leads the way to a livestock utopia. Granted, it doesn’t work out too well in the book, because power corrupts & all that. Still, the idea that a crew of serious, natural, “pure” talents—not only Brunson but GM/somm Jonathan Greschler, pastry chef Nadine Donovan, certified cicerone Ryan Conklin (ex-Euclid Hall), & bartender Courtney Wilson (ex-Williams & Graham down the street)—could come together to nurture a team of engaged pros in both the front & back of the house, where everyone pulls his or her own weight for the sake of what they’re calling “deformalized fine dining,” is an enlightened one. Such sense of community colors everything they do & includes everyone they work with, among them Infinite Monkey Theorem’s tireless Ben Parsons, who’s not only making their exclusive house wines—currently a Viognier-Roussane blend & a Malbec, though the blends will change with the input of the staff—but also lending them a garden plot at his facility.
And so far, it’s all working like a charm (maybe this one). As always when I’m writing about media tastings rather than meals I independently paid for, I’ll note that this isn’t technically a review & keep the in-depth analysis to a minimum. But after all the buzz & buildup, you already know Brunson’s bringing everything he’s got to the table: technical chops, playful sensibilities & grounded integrity.
Exhibit A is the smoked fish plate I already dubbed Dish of the Week. As for Exhibits B-Z: check out the hot, crusty, chewy yet soft pretzel rolls, made traditionally in a lye bath, with mustard butter.
And the black truffle-pistachio sausage over potato puree in a clean, clear pool of herbed escargot vinaigrette that positively lifted the whole.
The pan-roasted striped bass over leeks, turnips & beets, spritzed tableside with lemon verjus; an unpictured side of braised rapini proved an insightful accompaniment, picking up on the appealing bitterness of the charred skin.
The meltingly fat-edged, pan-seared pork chop with parsnip puree & chips, brussels sprouts, tableside-poured pork demiglace &, the highlight, a chunk of deep-fried guanciale (cheek meat)—which I strongly suggest should be offered in a bowl as a snack, chiccharón-style. Holy roly poly.
An unusually light & lovely, strawberry-foamed variation on baked Alaska.
Candied-bacon crème caramel.
And last but hardly least, a take-home jar of “pork butter”—basically rilletes, except sweetly meaty rather than intensely salty.
We sampled a couple of cocktails, too, most notably the ultra-smooth Fair Deal: blended Scotch, Drambuie & Cocchi Americano.
But I can’t wait to play with Greschler’s iPad wine list, which is quite the eclectic grab bag of old familiars & up & comers. Lemme at it.