Dinner at Root Down is like a Willy Wonka experience: every dish is more dazzling than the last. An ooh and aah-inspiring creativity is on display, something unexpected in the site of a former auto repair shop, with “Alignment,” “Tune-Lube,” and “Tires” still visible on the exterior. The menu encourages diners to share dishes. Family style is the best way to sample a large swath of flavors – you don’t want to miss a one.
The Dinner Menu includes Soups, Salads, Share Plates, Sliders, and Entrees. A section on the menu lists local food sources, which emphasizes the farm-to-table element. The wine menu includes bottle offerings from Colorado wineries The Infinite Monkey Theorem and Jack Rabbit Hill, as well as multiple local beer and spirits selections.
Individuals in our group chose wine or beer by the glass (Brutocao “Bliss Vineyard” Chardonnay 2011, Mendocino, California, and Charles Smith “Chateau Smith” Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Columbia Valley, Washington) and began the feast:
* (above) Brussels Sprouts & Kale with Tender Belly Bacon, Quinoa, Pecorino, Compressed Apple, Fried Sweet Potatoes, and Roasted Garlic Vin. Eating vegetables was a pleasure, even for those in our group who were less enamored of kale. This was the first of many clean plates for the night. The sweet and savory flavors combined to make a rich dish with moments of umami.
* (above) Edamame Hummus with Sesame Seeds, Medjool Dates, Olives, Watermelon Radish, Chili Oil, and Flatbread. It was so pretty – where to start? Every flavor combination was worth trying: hummus on a slice of date, hummus on olive, hummus on a radish, and of course hummus on flatbread. Simply, yum.
* Seared Colombian Arepas with Corn Cake, Mozzarella, Poblano-Pistachio Pesto, Achiote Crema, and Pico de Gallo. This was the kind of dish that required simply slicing a fork from top to bottom to get a cross-section of flavors.
* (above) Roasted Kashmiri Chicken with Green Chile Grit Cake, Lacinato Kale, Piquillo Coulis, and Green Curry Sauce. Perhaps one of the more interesting preparations of chicken in town, complete with kale!
* (above) Special of the Day: Antelope Steak with Colorado Lamb Sausage on a berry coulis and other ingredients my limited palate could not detect. The whole shebang paired very well with the Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State.
* (above) Diver Scallops with Plantain Hash, Butternut Squash, Edamame, Fried Capers, Pickled Red Onions, and Lemon-Habanero Tartar Sauce. This dish was enjoyed best by taking one scallop, your share of the greens, and cleaning the plate (a common theme that night).
* Roasted Squash Risotto with Black Quinoa, Candied Pistachios, Crisp Apple-Frisée Salad, Parmigiano Reggioano, Fried Sage and Apple-Balsamic. The toasty-rich layers of flavor made this a wonderful variation on comfort food.
* Arctic Char “à la Plancha” with French Green Lentils, Chorizo, Fennel Confit, Pickled Kohlrabi, Blood Oranges, and Spiced Pumpkin Broth. The fish was tender and the skin was crisped, and the entrée disappeared down to the last lentil.
It is easy to see why Root Down is one of the best restaurants in Denver. Consistently it is difficult to snag a table without reserving well in advance. Why? Because every morsel is worth it.
Until our next adventure in wine and food…
1600 West 33rd Avenue, at Osage Street
Denver, CO 80211