Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Strings (Uptown)

Jess and I have lived in Capitol Hill for almost 3 years now- and I've been to most of the great restaurants within a narrow radius. Many have never ceased to impress me, and will continue to each time I return. But what I've noticed is that this website has become a little oblong towards the downtown dining scene, and very few of the Capitol Hill gems have made it on here. Until now.

Now maybe I'm using the term Capitol Hill a little loosely because it's technically uptown- but for a birthday celebration my wife and I decided to venture a few blocks to one of the longest standing restaurants in Denver: Strings. A few things were apparent as we walked in- Strings is quintessential, and has definitely found its niche in Denver. And they have 25 notches in the belt to prove it.

This sign was cool in the 80's- proof that Strings has been here FOREVER.
 Open since 1986 and owned by Noel Cunningham for just as long, Strings is a comfortable neighborhood restaurant with a complex ambience. Not in the sense that it's busy, but mainly just because over time they've taken over the entire building. With a small bar, a dining loft, an open kitchen and a whole bunch of nooks and crannies, the atmosphere is a hard thing to nail down because it changes depending on where you sit. On this night, we weaved our way towards the back of the restaurant, through a street cafe-style brick corridor, and sat down in what looked like a small art gallery.

The black and white decor was simplistically rustic- but in a sense once the food hit the table is stuck out that much more. The spotlight didn't hurt either.

The Stringtini- cranberry, lemonade, vodka and Chambord. My wife's first course- and it was gone before the food showed up. She had 3.

Before and After: a tableside presentation of beef carpaccio with capers, dijon, parmesan and red onion.

Felipe's Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Bisque- deep flavor with some natural sweetness and a well-balanced viscosity.

Crispy Brussel Sprout Salad with shaved parmesan, capers, candied pancetta and whole-grain mustard vinaigrette. I recall being blown away at the variety of flavor profiles and textures in this dish- and it was perfect for a winter night because it wasn't technically a cold plate.

Cola Braised Short Rib with winter vegetable medley and herbed risotto. A tender piece of meat perfectly braised and balanced with its accompaniments. Strings got this one right.

Instead of getting a second entree, we opted for a small plate portion of the housemade tagliatelle with shrimp. Crushed red pepper heats the sauce through, with garlic, anchovy and crispy bread crumbs (that sort of work as a thickening agent). Excellent shrimp for a landlocked state.

A nice wrapup to an enjoyable meal- and kudos to the chef for a perfectly thin brulee shell.
When it all comes down to it, Strings is somewhat defining of the Denver dining scene. The city has embraced it as one of its own, and a restaurant that has been around long before there was even a foodie to be found is making quite a splash in my book. I left feeling satisfied and appreciative of Lance Barto's cuisine, that's not only elegant but also simple in a comfortable way. The service was attentive and overall it's just a well-balanced concept. It's the kind of place where you'll want to go back- possibly on a daily basis.

Average Entree: $26
Happy Hour daily 4-7, half price apps (and a great patio)
Sat/Sun Brunch 10-3
Complimentary Valet
Follow them on Facebook and Twitter

Ambience: Casual, white linen, modern design and lighting
Service: Somewhat rushed but well-timed, classical attention to detail (i.e. flatware, crumbing)

Rating: Very Good (3 dishes out of 4)

Strings on Urbanspoon

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