Saturday, April 11, 2009
Root Down (8)
So what's the low down on Root Down? In it's unique Highland abode, Owner Justin Cucci's contemporary concept boasts an impressive view of the Denver skyline. Perched just a few blocks Northwest of the pedestrian bridge in a remodeled lube shop, Root Down focuses on local and organic fare. Although not a completely revolutionary idea, still honorable. The restaurant's brand is deep and unique. It resonates from the glassware to the creative logo and collateral that you can collect at the host stand. Nice website too: www.rootdowndenver.com
I was so hungry when we sat down in our vintage-style round booth, I almost ate the refreshing hot towel that was aptly highlighted under interrogation-like track lighting. Needless to say, of the atmospheric elements, the lighting balance was one that needed work. My eyes were found battling the bright halo of light at the center of the table as I tried to read my menu. Solution: put the menu under the light. Would have been a good idea if the printed menu was a clean one... guess I'm just expecting too much.
While the ambience itself needed a little slight of hand, this isn't the whole picture. Root Down boasts a very creative menu, one on which I will likely return for seconds. And not just on the food. Enter the Thyme Gin Rickey, my first drink of choice for the night. Now I'm not used to savoring my cocktails like I would a complicatedly elegant glass of wine. But this one might be an exception. With a phenolic overflow of juniper berry and fresh thyme, it was definitely a sensory beginning. I certainly appreciated the tertiary element to the drink, and although this would be considered a distant relative to the ever-trendy mojito, it's a step further.
Root Down's smallplate format is only a suggestion, but certainly my recommendation. Even a number of the larger entrees come in a half size, which is a nice tasting option for 4 or so people. Now when I said I would to RD for seconds, I do so with a little bit of experiential discretion. Ryan Leinonen's menu is daring. It takes chances. With the necessary risks come successes and failures. That's the turf, and he trods it. Although a number of these plates blew me away, I would suggest a different turn of the fork on a few. Here's the breakdown.
The roasted beet salad is a necessary accoutrement to the meal. Textural, taste, and color contrasts with a bitter blood orange vinaigrette tie this plate together nicely. Don't miss the carrot and red curry soup, seared scallops (these change regularly), Harris Ranch Tenderloin with heavenly potato gratin, and croissant bread pudding to finish.
Feel free to pass on the mussels; includes a creamy broth with some confusing elements. Also, the buffalo sliders seem promising but the hoisin-style sauce is overwhelming.
Service-minded they were attentive, appropriate, knowledgable. In terms of timing, they managed our plates nicely. The meal and experience lightly crescendoed, and there were never more than 2 plates on the table at a time that we were picking from. In the case or two when dishes were teamed up, they were well matched.
Now keep in mind we really only tried about 10 plates. The great thing about this dining style is that it is a different experience each time, and with a regularly changing menu you never know what you're going to get.
I'm optimistic about Root Down. Being a very new concept, I have faith that they will work out their kinks. Even though a few of the risky dishes were a miss, time will tell the true potential of this restaurant that is trying to redefine the scene.
My recommendation: Back for seconds.
The Denver Dish is an open forum. Please feel free to let me know how your experience at RD was. I'm looking forward to hearing your comments on the blog in general as well.