Imagine for a moment you standing in a line. It’s long and its slow. A woman with walking sticks and a brand new Patagonia frame backpack seems to be holding things up with discussing her dear Fido’s most recent visit to his “Pet Therapist”. As the basket in your arms grows heavier and heavier, weighed down by piles of kale, kind bars and coconut water you scan around the room. The young girl, in all over her dreaded, tattooed glory behind the register is valiantly trying to keep up with the growing line. Suddenly, yours eyes fall on the newest issue of Bon Appetit Magazine sitting shiny and new on the rack. The cover claims to hold to secrets to all of summer’s food and promises to make you a master griller. A colorful picture smack in the center shows a grilled chicken breast mounting a heaping pile of fresh vegetables. All grilled and all colorful. Radicchio, romaine provide greens and purples as do ramps and red onions. Garbanzo beans and goat cheese provide yellows and white. The caption promises that this dish is gluten free, low fat, sodium free… you get the idea. It certainly looks good, but… does it taste any good? These days our city has become so dressed up that no one can know. And this dear reader, is precisely why the Mashugana is here.
The first thing noticeable thing about Beatrice and Woodsley is the windows, odd as that may seem. As I walked up I couldn’t help but wonder, why are the windows tinted yellow?! Upon opening the door my question was both answered and exemplified. Along one wall ran a bar spotted with chainsaws and high backed white stools and along the other wall ran a series of sheer linen shrouded booths. Naturally, there were Aspen tree trunks running from floor to ceiling sporadically throughout the dining room.
As it was relatively early in the evening on a Wednesday the restaurant was almost empty and we found a seat at the far end of the bar. In my mind I couldn’t help but imagine the restaurant full on Sunday morning. In my imagination the shrouded booths overflowed with trophy wives and father in laws. Toddlers weaved in and out of the Aspens in their “Nordstrom Sunday Best”, BMW’s and Lexus’s crammed the street parking outside as all of Cherry Creek clamored to get a taste of Denver’s new favorite thing, Brunch.
Putting my prejudice aside we looked over the cocktail list. I went with a Fernet Branca based cocktail while my lovely companion chose Bring us the Shrubbery, a rye based cocktail brightened by peach and mint. While mine was a touch sweet for my taste it was without a doubt a very good cocktail and went down far too quickly. The rye cocktail was definitely my favorite and included both the mint and peach flavors distinctly while still being dry and spirit forward. Along with our cocktails we ordered a Charred Onion Salad to begin. Simple and delicious, spicy greens were dressed with a cumin lime vinaigrette and accompanied by a poached egg, charred onion and bacon. Not overdressed and featuring impeccably produce the bitterness and spiciness of the greens shone through making this salad a fantastic beginning.
Next came Crawfish Beignets. They were a house favorite I was assured and I could see why. Deep fried the crawfish and sweet corn batter was filled with a rouille style aioli. It had all the marks of the type of dish that is so good and so popular that the chef eventually ends up cursing the day he put them on the menu. Like a burnt out Rockstar the chef is forced day after day to fry as hordes of fans demand he play is greatest hit over and over again. And unfortunately for the chef I must say I can’t blame them. I was tempted to forget the rest of the evening and keep stay right there ordering beignet after beignet until sickness eventually overcame me.
At this point in the meal, faith beginning to take hold, we left the last two dishes up to our host, choosing a few things from the menu and letting the good man behind the bar decide. Next came the Duo of Ravioli, my favorite dish of the evening. In a bowl of asparagus and a brown butter tomato sauce sat two perfectly formed green watercress ravioli, one stuffed with chicken confit and one with an egg yolk so perfectly liquid that when cut into it slowly rolled into the bowl like some sort of national geographic depiction of lava. Sitting regally atop all of this as a tiny perfectly white quinelle of ricotta. Not only was this dish balanced, rich and wonderfully flavor full but it held an impish and pervish sense of humor. Looking at the plate I wondered how often does one see a buttery tomato sauce, how often do you find ravioli with the quintessential ricotta stuffing removed and used as a garnish and how was I suppose to decide which to eat first, the chicken or the egg?
Lastly we dove into a rabbit roulade served atop a lentil ragu. The rabbit loin was stuffed with rabbit leg and carrots and served in thin warm slices shingled atop the lentils. Taking salt to the limits of perfect it was fantastically flavorful without being over seasoned. The lentils brought the saltiness of the rabbit back down with their earthy flavors and the acidity tomato made me forget about the salt all together. With the perfect last piece of the puzzle Beatrice and Woodsley re-taught the Mashugana a valuable lesson. While I may never be in doubt that does not mean I’m always right and sometimes a book truly is better than its cover may lead me to believe. All prejudice forced aside B&W was delightful and is a god damn win.