Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Night at Twelve Restaurant w/ Smith Madrone

Compliments: Twelve Restaurant
 When Stu Smith from Smith Madrone was in town a few weeks back, the food world got a little bit smaller.  I wasn't able to join him for his media tasting early on in the week, so I joined him for dinner at the notorious Twelve Restaurant.  Having wanted to try it for some time, and also in the wake of Jeff Osaka's Chef of the Year nomination, Twelve served to be a great taste of where the Denver dining scene is going. And for an out of town visitor from the Napa culinary mecca, I believe it also served to please.

I have to preface with an apology as this post will be lacking on the visuals. Stupid me, I brought a camera less a memory card. I'll do my best to poetsmith it.

As I walked in on a Wednesday night, the place was humming with hungry visitors, a few folks were enjoying dinner at the prominent wine bar, and the shadows on the red brick walls brought a historic charm to the ambience. Artistic lighting in the dining room complimented by a bright glow from the semi-open kitchen in the back corner seems to balance the energy flow from chef to guest.

We started off with an aperitif of cool madeira, and proceeded to get comfortable with a bottle of Stu's own 2008 chardonnay. A buttery nose with tart flavors of green apple and a savory aftertaste paired delicately with an incredible dish of veal sweetbreads that neither Stu nor myself could pass up. Earthy, mushroom barley risotto served as a great canvas for the dish, drizzled with a silky, flavorful jus.

Now when you go to Twelve, your sweetbreads may exemplify Jeff's most recent repertoire of local flavors, and classical techniques. As the menu is a relatively simple one of a beef dish, a pork dish etc., each month your food of choice finds itself dressed uniquely. We happened to be there on the first night of the new menu, and since it was a Wednesday we were also able to take advantage of their $35 prix fixe (essentially your choice of each course).

After the sweetbreads, we were enticed with an amuse bouche of fresh gazpacho with a hint of citrus. This was a dish that embodied the harvest, with a fine dice of zucchini, onion, red pepper and lightly seasoned to accentuate the natural flavors of the tomato and vegetables.

The gazpacho served as a fine crossroads into the entree, and at this point we also broke into the 2005 Smith Madrone Estate Cabernet. Great stuff, as Stu having been on the Napa wine scene since the early 70's has clearly polished off a trick or two. As for my entree, after overhearing the buzz I knew I would gravitate towards either the scallops or the beef. When Stu opted for the latter, I personally went for the scallops with Asian-style pho accompaniments. The scallops were definitely the highlight of the dish (as it should be), perfectly seasoned and seared, perched on a nest of rice noodles, snap peas, cilantro, and Thai basil.

Swimming in a warm chicken broth (though lacking in flavor), the scallops were each topped off with a dab of hot chili sauce and hoisin to add traditional Vietnamese depth to the dish.  Other than that, there wasn't much more included. It was a bare bones, simple dish and I found it amazing to taste the true, natural elements of the dish instead of finding myself in a sea of fat, starch, and richness.

Now I'm not used to pairing red wine with seafood, but there was something about the spicy chili sauce and hoisin accompaniments that complemented the layering of deep tannin and spice in the wine. Unfiltered, raw, and beautiful. Deep red from edge to edge, with richly integrated fruit.

To wrap up an already complete meal, Palisade peach and berry cobbler with a French press of deeply roasted coffee. Once again, simple, natural and cleansing. And the miracle, I was actually able to walk out of the place after a delectable 3-course meal.

And of course, thanks to Smith Madrone and Stu for a night of fine hospitality. With compliments, I can say from experience that their wine is top caliber, and that you should definitely give it a try for your next dinner party (Colorado Liquor Mart, Sip and Bubbles carry it, and you can also find it at Colt & Gray, Frasca, Venue and a handful of other restaurants in Denver). Also, in terms of Twelve Restaurant, the service was attentive and humble, detailed, and hats off to Jeff for making the experience a personal one. Make sure you stop in sometime and say hello, and of course, Dish It Up!

Food: 8.5
Service: 9
Ambience: 8.5

Tues, Wed, Thurs Night Prix Fixe- $35
Monthly Seasonal Menu
Vegetarian and Gluten Free options available
Average Entree: $23

Twelve Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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