Monday, July 18, 2011
Restaurant review: Root Down in Denver, Colorado
I recently had the good fortune to not only go out to brunch for the first time (yes, ever...shh.), but also to enjoy quite a tasty meal at Root Down in the Highlands neighborhood in Denver.
Root Down is located on the corner of Osage and 33rd on the site of an old service station, and the part that was the service station has been cleverly incorporated into the building's design, including a separate section for families with small children. The overall feel and atmosphere of the restaurant is one that enables diners to feel equally comfortable in jeans and t-shirts or button down shirt and khakis.
The Root Down is a unique and interesting restaurant, from the setting and atmosphere to the menu, which changes seasonally and features local and organic produce (as well as meats, cheese, and coffee) as much as possible. Fortunately, while other restaurants charge a premium for local and organic food, the brunch menu at the Root Down is priced well within the budget of most people.
When we arrived, we were greeted quickly and told it would be a 30-45 minute wait for a table; the place was bustling for sure. We ended up waiting about half that time before being seated on the covered deck (the covering was a definite bonus today since it was 90 degrees and sunny).
Our server appeared pretty quickly, and was friendly and energetic. We didn't see her a lot, but I attributed that to the crowd there rather than slow service. We placed our orders and while my blood orange mimosa and coffee arrived fairly quickly as did my son and his friend's orange juice, the food was rather slow in coming out (again, I'm attributing that to the size of the crowd that was there).
The food was absolutely worth the wait. There were three of us in the group, and we all ordered something different and sampled each others (of course) before digging into our own.
My son's friend ordered the Hazel Dell omelette with goat cheese, mushroom duxelle, caramelized onions, sage sour cream with organic home fries. The mushrooms were cooked tender without being soggy or slimy; the onions added a nicely sweet tang to the fluffy and well-cooked omelette. (Comments on the home fries to come.)
My son ordered the house made chorizo omelette with smoke mozzarella, tomato compote, micro cilantro & organic home fries. I found the chorizo flavorful with a nice slow burn in the mouth, complimented nicely by the smoked cheese, and the compote was a sweet counterpoint to the spice and smoke.
Eggs Benedict has long been one of my favorite breakfast entrees, and I am a fan of shellfish, so I got the Avocado Crab Cake Benedict with Herbed-Creme Fraiche Hollandaise, served with lemon dressed greens and organic home fries. In three words: Oh. My. Gosh. The Benedict was wonderfully rich and ever so slightly decadent. The egg and crab blended well and the creaminess of the avocado added a wonderful layer of both flavor and texture. The greens provided a nice cleansing to the palate between bites, enabling each successive nibble to be as interesting and exciting as the first.
We were offered and accepted both ketchup and hot sauce for our home fries but ended up using neither. These were the first home fries I've ever had that were absolutely perfect just as they were. Crisp exteriors and soft interiors were joined with perfect seasonings that stopped them just short of french fries but put them well on the other side of your stereotypical home fries.
I had just enough room for a dessert, and after looking over the dessert menu, was glad I did. I decided to try the banana "creme brulee" pie with peanut butter-chocolate crispy crust and sweet whipped sour cream. The banana flavor was not overpowering, which can often happen with banana desserts, and the crunch of the crust offset the silky texture of the brulee and whipped cream perfectly. The green chartreuse I chose as my drink to go with the dessert didn't sour the flavors in my mouth at all, and in fact, offset the treat quite well.
The Root Down possesses a wonderfully casual elegance that makes for an excellent start to a weekend morning. The very reasonable prices for their brunch menu makes going to the Root Down easy on the wallet, and the presence of both the familiar and slightly exotic spins on favorites provides culinary interests for both the fussy eater and the enterprising foodie. Whether a local or a visitor to Denver, the Root Down is not to be missed.