Denver Restaurant Week 2013

I talked about Denver Restaurant Week last year on this blog and we went again this year. “Cheap” food can be hard to find, after all.

As with last year, we went to Rodizio again, since 5280 week is the only time we can truly afford it. I had a food baby afterward that made me look about three months pregnant, but it was totally worth it. Mmmm.

However, we also wanted to try someplace new. We decided on LoHi Steakbar, a place that looked tempting last year, but we ultimately passed on. This year, it was our “new” choice, and it was delicious.

We each had a choice of appetizer: I chose the French Onion soup, which wasn’t bad – not the best I’ve had, but still pretty tasty, and Brandon had the buffalo wings, which he enjoyed. I tried them – good flavor, but too spicy for my weenie taste buds.

For the main course, we both chose the classic Steak Frites – I chose a garlic-herb butter to go with mine and Brandon, the blue cheese butter with his. I like a good steak-frites, and LoHi’s was definitely delicious (D Bar Desserts also has a tasty steak-frites).

Then, we had the choice a few desserts to split; we chose the bistro style lemon tart:
lohi_lemon_tart
Very, very delicious. We devoured this thing.

All in all, we’re very glad we went. However, looking at menu prices, we realized that by doing the $52.80 deal, we really only saved about $10, which isn’t that much. Doing Restaurant Week at Rodizio, in contrast, saves at least $30, which is a much better deal. That being said, DRW is for either getting a good deal on food or using it as a good excuse to try new places. Would we have tried LoHi had it not been for DRW? Perhaps, but I ultimately doubt it. Therefore, it was good that we went.

Denver Restaurant Week 2012

Every year in late-February, early-March, Denver does its Restaurant Week (two weeks now, since it’s so popular). I’m sure other cities do the same; various restaurants in the Denver metro area do a special menu for DRW where typically one person dines for $26.40 or two people for $52.80 (since Denver is the Mile High City and one mile is 5280 feet … we use that number a lot ’round these parts), though it can vary at normally cheaper restaurants. It’s a great way to a.) try places you’ve always wanted to try but never did because they were too expensive or b.) go to places you love but rarely eat at due to cost.

For the hubby and I, we went out twice for DRW for both of the above reasons.

Rodizio Grill was our choice for reason B above. It holds a sentimental place in our hearts as it was the location of our first date, had been our annual New Year’s Eve date place until we did D Bar this year and was where we held our rehearsal dinner. It’s a Brazilian-style churrascaria (steakhouse) with a salad bar and gauchos who walk around with giant swords of meat. It’s a food orgy to be sure and if you’re not stuffed walking out of there, you didn’t truly experience the place.

Although, one of these days, I want to not eat as they bring food just to see how much I end up eating there. I probably haven’t yet because the thought of how much I actually eat there kind of scares me …

The Oceanaire Seafood Room was our choice for reason A above. We’d always seen it while driving downtown and since both of us love seafood, we’ve been meaning to try it, but seafood gets expensive living here. Being landlocked will do that, obviously.

So, when we saw the tasting menu for 52.80 week and it looked pretty decent, we decided to make our reservations and try it out.

The actual restaurant was really cool. The theme is 1930s oceanliner – very streamlined. The actual bar is in the same location as the oyster bar and the overall aesthetic was very pleasing (go clicky the link – there are pictures).

The meal though … was disappointing. For the first course, Brandon had the creamy potato bisque which really was quite good. I had the New England Clam Chowder which was … not. There was some odd spice in it that I couldn’t quite place my finger on that gave it a funky taste. The Oceanaire Web site says its chowder is award-winning; well, not in my book. Brandon gives me a lot of crap because I very, extremely rarely order chowder away from a coast.  I went to school in Boston and ate a lot of good chowder. Therefore, my chowder palate is highly refined. This did not live up to my expectations.

Before the soup, they gave us the standard sourdough which was good, but would have been better warm. It should have been, if only for the sheer fact that our reservations were for when the place opened for dinner. The butter was also cold which a lot of restaurants do and I hate all of them for it. I don’t like destroying my bread by trying to spread cold butter on it. Places? Get on this. Along with the bread, we also got a random tray of vegetables (wrinkly grape tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, olives, pickles). It was underwhelming.

For the main course, Brandon got the grilled flat iron steak and shrimp. He enjoyed it, but also said that it was nothing special. I took a chance and tried the almond dusted Idaho rainbow trout. I shouldn’t have taken the chance. The fish itself wasn’t all that bad, but the accompanying items (date-bleu cheese butter, butternut squash, bacon) melded together for a not-pleasant combination of flavors. We also ordered some matchstick fries off the regular menu as my trout didn’t really come with any sides – another mistake on our part. I love French fries in general, but I did not love these.

For dessert, Brandon got the key lime pie and I got the cheesecake. I have had MUCH better cheesecake before and Brandon has had better key lime pie. Plus the tiny squares they gave us reminded us of the crappy squares of cheesecake and cake they serve at Country Buffet. Not something I want to be reminded of when we’re spending that much money on food.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend The Oceanaire … unless you’re not a seafood snob. Then, go party – you’ll probably like it.

Valentine’s Day at D Bar

Hey, I’m only getting to this post a month late.

*ahem*

As we did for New Year’s Eve, we went to D Bar Desserts for one of their special tasting menus. Compared to NYE, I thought the VDay tasting menu was worse. They did have one dish that was far and above anything served on NYE, but overall, I was ever so slightly disappointed.

The first course was oysters – fried.

dbar_vday
flash fried oysters * cara cara oranges * not yo mamma’s remoulade * micro salad

This was the first time I believe either of us had eaten oysters. They were … different, to say the least. Definitely a lot less scary than say, on the halfshell, but still … odd.

The second course … I did not eat. The antijitos (small bites) were unfortunately way too spicy for this girl.

dbar_vday3

pulled chicken hand pie * guerilo * mole poblano * coctel de camarones

Brandon really enjoyed the chicken hand pie … and the rest? Not so much, unfortunately.

Because the staff at D Bar is incredibly accommodating, I got their dressed avocado instead.

dbar_vday4
evoo * fresh lime * maldon salt & cracked pepper * small spring salad

I never thought I could eat a whole avocado just like that … but I did. Brandon also liked having it around as it was a nice counterpart (think: guac) to his Mexican-inspired dish.

Next course was probably the best thing we ate at either of the tastings – the tenderloin. I should mention that we had the choice between escolar (fish) or the tenderloin and we should have been smart and got one of each … but the tenderloin looked too good to pass up. Which it ended up being.

dbar_vday5
wilted spinach * bacon lardons * root vegetable puree (3) * red wine demi

OMG outstanding. Also awesome: that bottom root vegetable puree was from a Peruvian purple potato … something we had just read about in Botany of Desire. Funny how that works out.

Next up were the dessert courses, which didn’t have descriptions.

The first one was a “Tasting of Citrus.”

dbar_vday6

Brandon, being citrus boy, loved this one. For me and my sensitive (or overloaded) taste buds, it was a bit too much tartness for me. I couldn’t finish it, unfortunately. Presentation, though, was an A+. Totally cool looking.

Course two was “Madagascar Passion.”

dbar_vday7

This set of dishes was a mix of chocolate and passion fruit stuff. The first item, the little heart tart, was good, but I was a bit taken aback about how hard the tart was. I guess I was hoping for something a little … easier to eat for lack of a better phrase. The middle souffle was my favorite – my only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it. The final bite was very similar to one of the chocolate and mango dishes from NYE and it was tasty.

The final sweet course was, once again, petit fours. This time, though, I got a picture.

dbar_vday8

The chocolate-covered strawberries were awesome. The rest of it … well, we love Keegan and the D Bar staff, but they can get a bit too creative for our admittedly simple tastes. The majority of these were testament to that.

Regardless, it, as always, was a great time and worth what we spent for the experience and a chance to expand our food horizons, even if our palates didn’t always agree.

New Year’s Eve at D Bar

Going on from our first year of dating, every year on New Year’s Eve, my now husband and I have usually gone to Rodizio Grill, a Brazilian steakhouse. While delicious, you get so much food that it really is a once-a-year place. Normally, not a problem, but we chose Rodizio as the location for our rehearsal dinner.

We definitely could have done Rodizio again, but the idea didn’t sound that appealing to either of us.

Enter facebook and the feed from one of our favorite restaurants, D Bar Desserts. It posted that it was doing a multi-course meal with a champagne toast, party favors and an optional wine pairing. While neither of us really are foodies, we have enjoyed almost everything that the D Bar staff (including owner Keegan Gerhard) has thrown at us. So, we took a chance and went and were so glad we did.

Dinner started at 10pm and contained six courses – three savory, three sweet. The three sweet started at midnight along with our champagne toast to ring in 2012.

In short, it was a blast. Due to being, well, essentially regulars there, we were given seats at the bar for the dinner so we got to see Keegan and his staff create our desserts throughout the whole night.

nye3

Before it got busy.

nye6

Creating the first sweet course.

nye8

Making mango caviar.

As I mentioned earlier, we started off with three savory courses.

The first was a petit savory souffle, described as such: “fallen blue cheese pecan souffle * braised kurobata pork belly * bacon caramel.” While I’m not the biggest fan of either blue cheese or pecans, the souffle was delicious. It was light and the husband was “very pleasantly surprised” with it. The kurobata pork belly (kurobata is the pig equivalent of either kobe or wagyu beef) was heavenly and I seriously could have eaten a whole plate of it. The bacon caramel was I believe the drizzle on the plate; either way, this course may have been the best of the six.

dbar_nye

The second course was diver scallops two ways. Since there were two of us at dinner we each received one of the ways. One way included “b’nut squash risotto * brown butter beech mushrooms * burnt orange caramel beurre blanc.”

dbar_nye2

These were mine. You could definitely taste the beurre blanc – well, taste a lot of butter, actually, but this course was a foodgasm, plain and simple. There wasn’t a single thing I didn’t like about this dish.

The second version of the diver scallops included “cioppino style crusted scallop * mussels * charred tomatoes * pearl onions * grilled zucc.”

dbar_nye3

This was Brandon’s (the husband’s). We both enjoyed it, but he honestly said it wouldn’t be something he’d order again. (I’d order mine in a heartbeat.)

The third and final savory course was honestly the most disappointing for me – the Chinese 5-spice beef tenderloin with “lemon basted yukon golds * grilled baby bok choy & knob onion * brown butter soy.”

dbar_nye4

I don’t really recall what all five spices were – some were essentially pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) and I believe fennel – but they overpowered what was otherwise a really well-cooked delicious piece of beef. I think I have more taste buds than the average person and sometimes, it works as a disadvantage. This course (as well as the next) are examples of that. The potato was disappointing as well. It felt a little undercooked and dry (easy to happen with a potato). I felt that this dish had huge potential (glancing at the savory menu, it looked to be the only thing I normally would have ordered) and fell short.

As we had our champagne toast at midnight, we had our first sweet course, titled Citrus & Pink Stuff.

dbar_nye5
While pretty, it seemed unfinished. We watched Keegan making these all night and at one point they seemed finished (though simple). Then, we saw what they were supposed to look like:

dbar_nye9
With the addition of the orange slice(s), it suddenly became perfect once again.

Described as “yogurt panna cotta * winter compote * micro sponge * prickly pear sorbet,” it was an assault of a ton of different flavors that was almost too much for my poor tongue. Our waitress described the micro sponge (that pink fluffy thing in the back) as “tasting like Barbie,” which was actually pretty accurate. That flourescent pink blob on the dessert was the prickly pear sorbet which, if possible, tasted as bright and outrageous as it looked (almost overly sweet). I enjoyed the simple combination of the pink whipped cream, the panna cotta and the winter compote together and would have been happy with just those three items.

Well, that, and seeing the glitter (or non-toxic glitter-like substance) in the pink drizzle on the plate. (I love sparkly.)

The second sweet course was Chocolate & Mango – “chocolate (3) * white chocolate mango * chocolate crumble * mango caviar.”

dbar_nye12
This was my favorite sweet course. Weirdly enough, I loved the chocolate crumbly bits the best. Brandon, when asked to revisit his thoughts, said “delicious. Great way to finish off the night.” And I agreed.

If you’re still following along at home, you may recall I said six total courses (three savory; three sweet) and yet I’ve only shared five. That’s because the six and final course was taken to go – Petit Fours: “bon-bon * guimauve framboise * pate de fruit.” We haven’t gotten a chance to eat them yet and I neglected to take a picture of them plated, but I’m sure they’re good.

Overall, the NYE experience at D Bar was well worth the money spent. While we didn’t adore every dish we had, it was great eating outside the box (for lack of a better mangled phrase), trying dishes and eating things we normally wouldn’t have eaten (or chosen to eat). The atmosphere was also wonderful – we made conversation with those around us and hell, the entire restaurant (staff included) did the wave several times. Where else would you see that?

Money, time and lack of sleep (work at 5:45am the next day) well worth it.

nye13//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js