Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dinner at Bistro One, Denver

Literature can be quite inspirational, especially when this is what you're reading:
Bistro One opened just a couple of months ago on South Broadway at Louisiana. Last fall I saw the space when it was still just a gutted shell on a block full of moribund businesses and empty storefronts.

In fact, I have a photo from Oct. 13 of that very empty shell:
And of the sign on the window:
Intriguing! Exciting! I thought at the time.

That stretch of South Broadway is the north end of Antique Row, a series of trash-to-treasures-type shops. The rent is low there, and the skank factor high. The abandoned hulk of the Gates Rubber Factory looms nearby, the traffic is heavy on the four-lane street and a general aura of not-so-genteel neglect pervades. It is not a particularly pleasant place to stroll.

But plans are afoot to make it so – the factory is being torn down for a massive mixed-use development of condos, offices and retail space centered on the light-rail station a couple of blocks to the north. Broadway is slated to get some major sprucing up, with a landscaped median and sidewalk improvements. I suspect the speed limit will be lowered from the current 35 mph (which we all know really means 45) as well.

It is a wise restaurateur who tracks such plans and gets in on the ground floor, so to speak. And what a difference nine months makes in that ground floor's appearance:
Pretty slick!

We started in one of the small center booths, which felt a little dark and claustrophobic (I wanted to see the pretty bar and the window to the kitchen, but couldn't because of the high booth walls). Then a jolly party of eight was seated at a pushed-together set of tables right next to us and our booth became an echo chamber of raucous laughter and chair-leg scraping. (Note to Bistro One management: Some little felt pads for the chair feet would be a good investment.)

The staff responded graciously to our request to move to a table near the front of the house instead, with the advantage of a better view, better light (from the front window) and a bit of insulation from the din.

But back to that inspirational literature:
That's one delicious sidecar, heartily endorsed by our exceedingly enthusiastic server ("It's my own creation!"). The glass is rimmed with sugar laced with citrus zest, a nice touch. I had two, and I usually don't.

We started with the five-cheese plate: chèvre with sweet berries, house-smoked Maytag bleu with tomatoes, Mahon (an aged cow's-milk cheese from Minorca, Spain) with more berries, gruyère with rose jelly, and cheddar with olives, and a little mâche with vinaigrette in the middle. We had ample bread with olive oil as well.
That is some good cheese, and at $9 a much better value than the $21 version at The Village Cork (not to mention a much more pleasant experience).

For entrees, I ordered the "Frenched Pork Chop: parmagiana crust, tomato bacon salad, agniolotti." I suspect the word "salad" and the following comma are not supposed to be in there, as there was no salad beyond the sprouts on top and the "agniolotti" had a a very nice tomato bacon sauce. Isn't it spelled "agnolotti"? And isn't that usually half-moon shaped and stuffed with something? This was neither, being square with ridges, and thick only because each piece was folded over on itself. Whatever it was, it was delicious.

The pork was succulent beneath the cheesy crust and the portion ample. So much so that I decided I could only eat half of it, having already pigged out on cheese. More on that later.
The Sergeant ordered the Maple Leaf Duck, with mushroom mascarpone wild rice and a cherry reduction. It was also delectable.
By the time we were done we both stuffed, and as tempted by the desserts as we were (I really want to try the house-made s'mores), we decided discretion was the better part of valor.

We asked for the check, and the waiter went to fetch my leftover pork, which he had thoughtfully placed in the fridge earlier. After some time he returned with a takeout box and an apology, first for the wait (we hadn't noticed) and then for a "mishap" in the kitchen. What exactly that mishap was, I don't know, but it appeared that my half-chop had gone astray. In the box was an entirely new chop and fresh batch of agnoletti, piping hot. Wow! A whole new dinner, to be enjoyed later. I felt bad having to toss it in the fridge right away.

The check, too, was a pleasant surprise. Given the delicious and generous amount of food and drink, I'd inflated it in my mind and expected it would be more than the $65 tab we were handed.

If you are looking for a really good meal that won't break the bank, excellent service and a pleasant atmosphere, you really can't go wrong with Bistro One. You could make quite a nice meal out of the apps and salads, too, and be sure to have room for dessert.

For a new restaurant, they seem to be doing everything right. I will definitely be going back, and sending my friends there, too.

Bistro One
1294 S. Broadway
Denver, CO 80210
Tues-Sun 4 to 10 p.m.
Fri-Sat 4 to 11 p.m.

P.S. I forgot to mention that they must have invested in good sound-proof windows, as I was barely aware of all the traffic out front. It felt very cozy and distant from scruffy Broadway.


  1. I see we share the same taste in literature.

  2. Very enjoyable review.. I wish I lived closer! You should be a restaurant reviewer.. wonderful detailed descriptions making my mouth water.. and that apricot sidecar sounds incredible! :D

  3. $65 for all that? Wow. I'm moving to Denver.

  4. what a great experience - I wish I lived in Denver now.

  5. That is really a bargain! The same meal here in a nice restaurant like that one would have been at least $100.

  6. Thanks! It really was a fun evening and delicious meal. I wonder if they will raise their prices later once they're more established. Of course I hope they don't.

    Y'all should move here, for sure! Or at least visit. (I'm looking at you in particular, Mr. Strong.)

  7. It seems as if Antique Row is becoming something of a Restaurant Row. Some of my favorite antique shops have closed over the last few years. Since my house is full, interesting eatries will give me a reason to venture down to South Broadwau from Boulder.

    Amy, where is "here"?

    Kitt has a point, and for anyone who wants to move here, this is a good time -- providing they can sell their houses elsewhere.

    Claire @ http://culinary-colorado.blogspot.com

  8. Looks great we will have to add that to our list of places to try

  9. YumMERS! Will have to meet someone there for dinner very soon. The last time I had dinner down that way was at John Galt's and it was so long ago, I can't even remember exactly where it was.


  10. Wow, you had me at the cheese plate!

    Gina is right - you should consider setting up an adjunct blog (you know, in your spare time) for reviews of yr mile-high and bay-area dining experiences!

  11. maple leaf duck with mushroom marscapone....I'm dying over here. Do I need to move to Denver to try it? You need go get me a recipe!

  12. Claire, there's also Urban Pantry on the block, and a new Spicy Pickle. Plus a very good wine shop, DiVino. Things are looking up!

    Thanks Jen! I really only dine out at places worth blogging about maybe once a month, so I think it's better to just wrap it into the general eclectic mess. Clicking on the "restaurants" tag will show you all of them, though. Maybe I'll refine that tag to specify where the restaurants are.

    Diane, I think you'll just have to come visit! But I'll ask about the recipe next time I'm there.

  13. I know about DiVino and have stopped in to take a look and was impressed, but frankly, it's kind of hard for us to justify buying wines anyplace but Boulder. The Boulder Wine Merchant has three master sommeliers (the co-owners and one of their employees), and the boutique-y little West End Wine Shop is around the corner. And when we have a bunch of people over and are looking for decent jug wines, Liquor Mart is Bolulder's version of Applejack. About the only exception is Mondo Vino, because they have such depth in the German and Austrian wines that I am so fond of.

  14. I buy my wine at Morgan's or The Reserve List, but I hear DiVino is pretty good.