Monday, April 9, 2012

DRW 2012 Recap: Sonoma'z, EDGE, Panzano

So I find myself coming out of the hype of Denver Restaurant week not only a few pounds heavier, but a few hundo down. I'm not really sure what happened, but a blur of delicious sounding menus and high expectations sort of left me in a state of lothargia, and ultimately with a few conclusions that I'm surely not alone in. Now it's kind of interesting, because even though we're a few weeks out from the 2 week-long grub fest that always takes Denver by storm, I can still vividly remember details from each meal I had, whether good or bad.

I practiced self control this time around. Despite opportunities to go out most every night of the marathon, I only ended up at 3 different joints. Tonight's honest moment: I only took pictures of 2, and I only feel like writing about one. And that restaurant is Panzano.

Sure, I could spend some time talking about how EDGE just didn't live up to my expectations. And with a few other friends there on the same night at a different table, the consensus was unanimous. Underwhelming food preparation and lax service pretty much sums it up. I'd like to think if I went to the Four Seasons' restaurant on a regular night, that I'd be blown away with just the opposite. But if Denver Restaurant Week is an opportunity to share your cuisine with all of Denver, and ultimately attract return business, EDGE missed the mark.

Sonoma'z in Lone Tree, though off the beaten path, was a decent experience. Although, I was sick as a dog so I can't speak to flavor or anything, and I was remiss in bringing my camera. We did have a great meal with my family, and I would go back to Sonoma'z again (on the rare occasion that I'm down south). 

Ultimately, if EDGE missed the mark, Panzano hit the bulls-eye. It was apparent to me that Elise Wiggins and team embraced what Denverites expect for a DRW experience, and such an embrace makes you feel as if you were the most important guest ever. There's nothing worse than feeling like because you are dining out during Restaurant Week that you're not only a burden on the server, but the restaurant as a whole. On the contrary, Panzano welcomed us in with a lively, bustling atmosphere, friendly and attentive service, and a paramount attention to detail. Course after course we were surprised by textural and flavor contrasts, and soon enough sharing turned into scuffling for one more bite of the best dish from each course. Clearly, this was their A-game.

Fried Brussels Sprouts with pistachios, apple cider reduction, and green apple.
Tangy, fresh and crisp, this one disappeared rather quickly.

A regular menu facet- Crespelle ai Funghi; a housemade crepe loaded
with wild mushrooms, a rich fondue sauce and truffle aioli. I'm glad
this one is regularly available at Panzano- phenomenal flavor.

Grilled Romaine Caesar- though warmer in temperature than a usual salad,
I find myself comforted in the temperature contrast. Tangy dressing and
crisp croutons are complemented by a light char, and highlighted by
salty anchovy and parmesan.

Seared Sea Scallops with sun-dried tomato and spicy salumi risotto, over a caper
buerre blanc. A few friends highly recommended this dish having dined before us,
and though good flavors highlighted this dish, the textures just sort of blended together.
To quote my sister- 'The best meat I've ever had!' Rabbit Confit with roasted
tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese mushrooms, and leeks over a base of pillow-like gnocchi.
A well balanced dish- only complaint was that I wish I had two of them.

Braised Beef Short Rib with sweet potato puree, mushroom demi and truffled vanilla bean foam.
Every bit as good as it sounds- and probably the best value of the entree offerings.
 As for dessert, I'm still wondering where the pictures of the light, airy Tiramisu, and rich, lavender-chocolate pate, but I think they disappeared along with the desserts themselves. A nice finish to our meal, of which he had just enough room for a few bites of delicacy.

I remember leaving that night feeling well-served, satisfied, but not weighed down. It's apparent to me that the Panzano team has embraced what Denver Restaurant Week is all about, and I know many folks who enjoyed Elise Wiggins menu will return. After all, if you can get a great experience during DRW, then they'll probably knock it out of the park on every other night as well.

Until next year DRW fans, and Dish It Up!

Panzano on Urbanspoon

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