Situated in Lo-Hi, just across I-25 from downtown Denver, Central Bistro and Bar has it made. They will always be able to show off the magnificent view of downtown Denver, all glistening and statuesque punctuated by an ever-changing Colorado skyscape. The fact they have a patio that fronts the restaurant with plenty of seating for lunch, brunch, happy hour or dinner makes them lucky, lucky bastards. It’s such a good view, that I’d be tempted to recommend people go there just for the view. But that would not do justice to the food, which merits your full attention.
Central Bistro and Bar’s main dining salon, chic yet comfortable, is punctuated by giant, illuminated, red letters spelling ”H-O-T” angled above the open kitchen. Clever and showy to be sure, it turns out the letters were from a HOTEL sign, scavenged by long-time North Denver resident and owner/managing partner, Isiah Salazar.
This place IS hot, in the best sense of the word – popular and hopping. Chefs Gerard Strong and Jason Clark clearly go above and beyond for their food, making pasta from scratch, curing meat and making sausages on site and foraging (yes, foraging) in Colorado’s high country for mushrooms for various dishes. As the dinner went on, it was clear, these guys are overachievers and we are the beneficiaries.
Good to Eat:
A separate menu listing The Daily offerings got us started with a mushroom consomme ($8) that arrived with a flourish. Wild mushrooms, cipollini onions, leeks and herbs were piled in a mini-stack in the center of a large, shallow bowl. Our server poured hot, clear, golden brown consomme over the pile, setting it free to float and mingle. It was light and delicious.
The pappardelle pasta with wild mushrooms and English peas ($16) was a stack of goodies atop ribbons of pasta layered haphazardly with thick slices of mushrooms. Crowning it all were translucent slivers of house cured bresaola (raw beef, salt cured and air dried) that added meaty, buttery depth. It was substantial and so good, although the garlic-iness began to wear on me, taking the lead over the individual flavors of the dish. Thankfully, my partner and I shared the consume and the pasta which helped cut the headiness of the garlic.
We cleansed our palates with two salads. The Lacinato Kale Salad had delicate chiffonades of kale with parmesan, apple, lemon and toasted hazelnuts ($8). The Watermelon & Capicola Salad ($10) was a real treat combining watermelon, sticks of jicama, sorrel and cilantro leaves with a dollop of lime ricotta on the side. The watermelon and cilantro together seemed so logical, so “why didn’t we think of this before?” I mentioned that to our server who said Chef Salazar, who grew up in Puerto Rico, was inspired to create this dish by a chilled soup he would have as a child on tropic days so hot you couldn’t fathom cooking or eating. It was the highlight of my meal.
Central Bistro and Bar offers small plates for sharing (or having a lighter meal) that run in the $4-$14 range as well as full-on entrees from $14 for a burger to $26 for halibut. To get a sense of each, we ordered the Marinated Steak Tartine ($11) from the Small Plates menu and the Pork Duo ($25) from the Entree menu. Layers of thinly sliced meat lay atop toasted bread with melty Teleme cheese, mushrooms, arugula and a farm-fresh egg with a sunny yellow yolk. It was a hefty portion and hearty.
The Pork Duo was, in my partner’s words, “perfect” with pork tenderloin and house-made Jagerwurst, a peach glaze, grilled Palisade peaches and watercress ($25). The pork tenderloin had a crispy crust and a pink, amazingly tender center. The Jagerwurst sausage was full of flavor and not too fatty. Both salutes to the wonders of pork rested on a barley risotto, with a surprise of green chilies for zing.
Seeing desserts pass us by on their way to other tables, we sucked in our guts and ordered one each. The Tasting of Three Ice Creams ($5) lets you choose from various flavors of ice cream, each arriving in their adorable, itty bitty dish, on a tray. Too cute! The almond marscapone was almond at its best. The strawberry tasted like, go figure, real strawberries, just picked from the garden. But the lemon with buttermilk ice cream! It was tart, slippery and elegant. We ordered the Nutella Waffle ($8), a confection of a waffle lucky enough to lay atop warm Nutella. Not content to leave the pair alone, it was topped with pretzel ice cream and butterscotch-banana slices that offered a different texture. The waffle and Nutella could have rested on its own, delicious laurels without the ice cream or bananas. It was that good. This was get-the-hell-away-from-me-I’m-having-dessert-good! It was worth being uncomfortably full. Nothing a lovely walk around the Highlands neighborhood couldn’t aid. Thank you, pastry chef, Danielle St. John, for the dessert experience!
Good to Know:
1. Their bathrooms (two co-ed ones, brilliant) are the most charming restrooms I’ve encountered in a restaurant.
2. Whiskey Wednesdays – Discounted flights of whiskey
3. Happy Hour – Wed.-Fri. 4:30-6pm. 40% off all bottles of wine; $5 select wines by the glass; $3 draft beers; $5 specialty cocktails.
4. Sunday Brunch – 10am-2pm.
5. Their coffee is not from a local roaster and is a bit on the green side.
6. Their delicious fresh bread and whippy butter comes 2 slices at a time with no seconds offered.
7. Their bar is well stocked with local libations and carefully selected options from afar.
8. Service is friendly, efficient, attentive; our water glasses were always kept full of tasty filtered water.
9. Parking in Lo-Hi can be, well, a pain in the keister! Plan extra time to drive around, or take advantage of the classy Valet service – totally worth the cost!
10. A new promenade will soon be completed across from Central, providing a pleasant stroll and dreamy skyline view.
Join us in Good Taste:
“Like” In Good Taste Denver on Facebook.
“Follow” In Good Taste Denver on Twitter.
Pin it! on Pinterest.
InGoodTasteDenver on Instagram.
Write to us at email@example.com.
(C) This, and all In Good Taste Denver blogs are the sole property of
In Good Taste Denver and CDM Communications, LLC and cannot be used without written permission of CDM Communications, LLC.