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Central Bistro and Bar

March 5th, 2013

By A Servant

First, I’ll thank Clayton for allowing me to guest write for Indie Eats. I work with Clayton on a variety of different projects (Music Ninja, Indie Eats, and hopefully some up and coming projects he and I are trying to manifest). Indie Eats is a blog I visit often, and I enjoy every opportunity I get to contribute to the site.

I also do my own blogging (aservant.posterous.com): my topics tend to revolve around the Lo-Hi area of Denver. So this restaurant review was a quadruple pleasure for me: I get to help out a blog a love, I get to write about a neighborhood I love, I get to help out a restaurant I love, and I get to help out a guy I love.

Call me a big softy.

 

 

 

Anyway, my first two experiences with Central Bistro, located halfway between I-25 and 15 th street on Central, were very good. I live in the neighborhood and often dine at the many establishments located within walking distance of my girlfriend and my apartment on 15th Street. My first experience with Central Bistro was in the late summer of 2012. My girlfriend and I were caught in a sudden rainstorm, looking for a place to get a drink and a snack. We ran into Central Bistro, which had just opened, and found a covered patio table. We sat and watched a rare Denver downpour while snacking on salumi plates and sipping cocktails. Our service was prompt and helpful—our overall experience very pleasant. I liked the place and looked forward to coming back.

The second time I ate at Central Bistro was under different circumstances. My girlfriend and I were looking for a place to eat after being told there was a 45 minute wait at Amado’s. We were really just looking for a quick bite—work had gone late for both of us and we were too exhausted to cook, so we tried Central Bistro again. We had a seat at the bar, ordered a bottle of wine from Mark, the very helpful bartender, and settled in for some small plates. Had I known the food was this good, I would have ordered far more than just an appetizer my first time in.

I ordered a chicken confit soup and a fried chicken small plate. I had the soup first: a delectable, slow cooked confit drenched in a meticulously reduced vegetable broth. I had tasted broth reductions of this caliber at places like Mizuna in Denver and Frasca in Boulder, but those aren’t places I go to often. I was blown away by the levels of complexity and flavor in the soup—particularly given the forgiving price tag of about 8 bucks. My girlfriend had a baby green salad with arugula, sunflower seeds, tomatoes and goat cheese. We followed this with an amazing fried chicken, served on top a Johnny cake with a heavy gravy. The portions were perfect—we both felt content after our plates. We high-fived at the bar, very thankful that we had decided to go to Central Bistro instead of waiting it out at Amado’s. We had a great conversation with Mark as we listened to Gorillaz and Portishead and finished our wine.

Needless to say we were impressed. We resolved to ask Clayton, that oracle of indie restaurants in Denver, permission to write up Central Bistro and share it’s loveliness with our fair city. He agreed!

Our third visit was a proper one. It’s amazing how much of a restaurant you will miss if you just duck in, as I had the last two times I was there. This time I noticed some of the intricate touches the restaurant designers had put into place. No detail was spared. The dining room is cast in the shadow of the neon “HOT” sign over the expo line, the white leather chairs standing in contrast to the bright red sign burning out into the street. The metal work is all adorned with the Central Bistro symbol: a fork and knife crossed with a wine bottle. The bar is more subdued; oak barrels sit on the west side of the bar next to chest high bar tables surrounded by distressed wood and metal. The tops of the room are surrounded by high end whiskey bottles and fruit preserves, reminding me a little of my college apartment—a high end version of it, that is. The bar is situated on the far Eastern extreme, stocked with high end brown liquors and a few notable light ones. The music, so necessary to the vibe of an urban (or any) restaurant, was blue grass. I recognized Led Zepplin’s Bronyur Stomp played by a bluegrass band which seemed fitting for the whiskey heavy environment I was in.

My girlfriend and I were greeted with prompt cocktails that I shared on Instagram: an Old Fashioned for me and a “Star Power” (vodka, pineapple and sage) for my lady. We were treated to a special plate: shaved salmon and caviar all on fried potato cake with dill and crème fraiche to top it. We savaged the dish, enjoying the salty, starchy blend. Our next dish was a house charcuterie: duck prosciutto, copa, mortadello and a few other shaved meats with olives and house made lavosh, crunchy and briny to the finish.

 

 

 

As we awaited the next experience, we asked a few questions about the place. We discovered that the intricate bar woodwork was made from antique boxcar flooring. We learned of the over 70 different types of whiskey were available (Seth, the GM and Mark, the lead bartender, are both enthusiasts) as well as the extensive, almost solely American wine list of the restaurant. The goal for Central Bistro is to be a “Denver restaurant first, and an American restaurant second,” we learned, and that the vast majority of the ingredients were found locally. And being that the restaurant is first and foremost a Denver establishment, the overall goal was to match the flexibility of its Denverite diners with quality and affordable items: if you wanted develed eggs, cheese curds and a stout beer, Central Bistro could accommodate you. If you wanted a delicate seafood dish, artistically garnished with a high end bottle of wine from the good old US of A, well, you could get that too. And we did.

The second plate was a lovely seared scallop, crunchy on the outside and creamy soft on the inside, drenched in sautéed cauliflower, roasted almonds, hamhock shavings and celery root. The seafood fan in me rejoiced! Over the speakers more bluegrass played. I smiled as I recognized the theme from O Brother Where Art Thou, camouflaged among lesser known bluegrass tunes.

Finally came the main course: a flank steak cooked to a perfect almost medium rare with potatoes duchesse and creamed spinach that was just heavenly. At this point, I had to know who the head chef was. I was informed only that his name was Gerrard formerly from “Z Cuisine,” another local favorite of mine, and that the su-chef hailed from Strings, another Denver heavy hitter. My girlfriend and I agreed that the pedigree of the back of the house explained a lot as we scraped the last bit of potato and creamed spinach off the plate.

 

 

I’m not a huge dessert fan, but we definitely indulged that night. We ordered the sweet potato cheesecake. I’m going to tell you this: I don’t like desserts, but I totally bogarted this one. The experience was spiritual—in a gluttonous way. It was the most fantastic bit of sweet I had ever experienced (keep in mind that my gf is an avid baker). It was the perfect balance of sweet and salty, mellow and creamy, rich and light. “Fabulous” falls short. Order this. Period. I enjoyed this dessert as a bluegrass rendition of Cold Play’s Yellow came over the speakers. I’m not a Cold Play fan, but the song sounded great on a full belly and with a banjo. I contemplated heaven.

I left feeling really good about the place. It’s a real treat to have such a versatile restaurant just a stone’s throw away from where I live. I could see going down there for a bite during the week or planning my next special event there and in both cases, come away feeling content.

Stop in for your own experience. I’m confident you’ll enjoy it!

Ciao

A Servant

  • F

    Love the restaurant…please get rid of the white text on black background. It’s terrible to read.

  • Guest

    Thanks for the suggestion. We’re currently in the middle of redevelopment, so look for changes soon.

  • http://twitter.com/IndieEats Indie Eats

    Thanks for the feedback! We’re actually redeveloping the site right now, so you’ll see a fresh new take in the next month.