There are many beautiful things about Denver but one of the most prominent is the marriage of old and new. Pot and ranching, fracking and organic farming, however you feel about any particular issue Colorado is the land of old and the land of new. A perfect cultural example of this is Denver’s new Union Station. Located at 17th and Wynkoop, one of Denver’s original landmarks has recently been renovated and reopened in an exciting new project. It has brought out an all-star team of restauranteurs and developers, including the snooze group, the kitchen group, the brains behind Little Man Ice-cream and Jennifer Jasinski. One of Denver’s most prominent and fastest growing stars, Jasinski is the chef and owner of Euclid Hall, Bistro Vendome, Rioja. Having recently (2013) won the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the South West she just opened her fourth project in the recently renovated train station.
Upon arriving at Stoic and Genuine there is very little parking to be found although there is an immediate and friendly valet available. Walking up to Union one cannot help but to be impressed by the beauty of the building. “UNION STATION” is spelled out in large orange letters, above the grand entrance to a white stone, wonderfully formed train station. Stoic and Genuine is located on the south-side of the building just past the main terminal. With a patio that extends into the plaza the Stoic door is marked by a large decal of an octopus.
Today’s restaurant scene has seen some revolutionary changes. Chefs like Wolfgang Puck opened up the walls of the kitchen and made the men in white stars. Bartenders began to act as experts of flavor creating the art of mixology. Modern hosts began to do away with the traditional white table clothes and formal rules of fine dining. Stoic and Genuine is a shining example of these changes being used properly. Although distinctly modern the foundations of service and tradition are still observed in this new seafood centric restaurant. Serve from right and clear from the left, proper wine service and tradition course marking are alive and well here. They have however, done away with table cloths, formal dress and pretense. Plainly set simple tables are lined in perfect rows through the dining room. Traditional chandeliers are replaced by clusters of Edison bulbs and a raw bar/open kitchen runs all the way down one wall. Full of a rag-tag, but professional, crew of determined chefs, the raw bar/kitchen pops under bright lights – the obvious focal point of the restaurant.
Being sure not to leave Denver’s, ever more thirsty, residents parched, Stoic combines a simple yet elegant wine list with a creative and innovative cocktail list. A balanced list, including many European selections, provides a backbone of tradition while the out there cocktail’s provide a streak of modern rebellion. For example, the “Some Like It Hot” specialty cocktail provides an almost unrecognizable twist on margaritas. Containing tequila, simple syrup, and lime, it is poured over a chili-citrus granite providing a visually stunning glass. The same trick is used in a ginger and bourbon-based cocktail dubbed the “Ginger Cane”.
Fried buffalo mozzarella with fish roe and guancialle vinaigrette becomes a fascinating and provoking start to any meal at this new restaurant. Apply dubbed Swine and Roe this dish is a perfect example of the art of juxtaposition. Fried buffalo mozzarella makes up the primary piece of this dish. Two large pieces sit center stage, providing a foundation of both texture and flavor. The fried shell gives a crunch factor while the melted interior provides soft chewiness. Rich and creamy, the cheese provides the foundation. Fish roe steeply contrasts this rich creaminess with salt and the distinctly light and playful flavor of the sea. All of this is capped by guancialle (cured pork jowl) vinaigrette, which is acidic as well as fatty and rich. A brilliant juxtaposition of flavors the roe and cheese are perfectly brought together by this sauce that simultaneously intensifies the flavors of both.
A whole roast haddock offering creates an entirely different experience as an entree. A full head-to-tail presentation (bone-in), this dish is sure to amaze the second it hits the table. As opposed to the previously mentioned appetizer, this dish is the opposite of clever and playful. It is a simple representation of fine ingredients cooked and presented well. Upon diving into this dish it is immediately evident that the fish is of extremely high quality. The preparation of the haddock however, is what makes it truly special. Crispy skin covers a moist and tender flesh that instantly falls off of the bone. Seasoned with lemon and thyme, the only thing that could possibly improve this dish is a supplement of foie gras (available for $8 and oz). The foie adds a rich and earthy component to this already fabulous plate.
Sticking rigidly to their attention to detail, Stoic and Genuine has several side dishes and desserts that are of stand-alone quality. Baked-to-order corn bread is served with a side of room temperature butter. Perfectly moist as well as slightly crumbly this dish is a necessary addition to any meal here. Chocolate bread pudding with hot buttered rum is another must try at this Denver Restaurant. Served as a slice with ice cream, this dish is not too sweet and not too rich. It is not too alcoholic, and at the same time, is just enough. A nice sipping tequila provides a perfect beverage to accompany this dessert, complimenting the creaminess of the butter as well as the underlying rum flavor.
Today’s restaurants can be so exciting. They provide a bold venture from tradition. Although this is certainly a good thing that provides much needed progress, it can so often ruin what made eating out great in the first place. Stoic and Genuine manages to find the prefect middle-ground in this debate. A marriage of old and new, Stoic poses new bold questions. Why not use granite as a cocktail ingredient? Who says you can’t serve exquisite raw and hot sea food in the center of heartland America? Albeit, for a price? Why should one have to chose between great service and casual comfort? It boldly offers both creativity and properly represented ingredients and flavors. In the heart of one of Denver’s most exciting new projects, Jesinski has created a must-try destination.