Being a Capitol Hill local, Encore has been one of my regular destinations for quite some time. Specializing in comfortable food with a finer flair, I find myself enlightened in the variety of techniques and artistry that are employed on their menu. With Paul Reilly (one of the 2011 Denver FIVE) behind the scenes working his magic on the food and his sister Aileen running the front of the house, there's a well-executed synergy that orchestrates your experience start to finish. It's almost as if you're family as well- the relationship welcomes you in, and you're not just another patron but rather an exclusive part of their passion. You share in it.
On a recent visit, we settled in with a unique amuse bouche: Seared Sea Scallop with shaved fennel, prosciutto, and grapefruit in a yuzu vinaigrette. With a balance of sweet, savory, tangy, and umami profiles, this was one of those plates where each element truly complemented the next.
I was initially going to tell Chef to not set the bar TOO high with the first taste of the meal, but the rest of the plates were equally enjoyable with creativity and balance.
An example of the comfort Encore offers- flatbread pizza (one of a few) with chile-garlic oil, a four cheese blend and finished with Il Mondo Vecchio Pepperoni. The cheese itself had many sensory notes that seem to toy with your senses, and the pepperoni had a rich, well rounded spice and depth of flavor.
The dish that wrapped up the entire meal- a "Coq au Vin" style risotto with chicken confit and arugula. Layered over a burgundy risotto with chicken jus. The crisp, fresh arugula offers a textural and cool flavor contrast to the rest of the warm, savory elements. Hard not to finish this one.
So you can probably tell by the natural lighting that we were at Encore for lunch. Most of these dishes are available for dinner as well, but you'll benefit from some smaller portions and extra value earlier on in the day. When it boils down to it, what Encore has to offer is real. It's enjoyable. It's bold- being one of a few finer restaurants on what Denverites might consider the strip. I can honestly say that Encore sits atop a short list of restaurants that I want to return to time and time again, and can actually afford to. It's the kind of place where you can hope to be a regular, and actually become one.
Try the Encore Red beer- custom brewed by Twisted Pine
Avg Entree: $16
Happy Hour (Mon-Sat 4-6)
Open Daily for lunch, dinner and Sunday for brunch
Gluten-free menu available
Free parking garage behind complex
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Service: 9 (attentive, solo service, classical detail)
Ambience: 9 (warm lighting, comfortable, casual, open kitchen, prominent cocktail bar)