Weekly pre-fixe menus have become a restaurant staple, but at Le Central, the chefs have added their own personal touches. Each menu is inspired by the home region of one of the employees, a nod to both the authenticity of the restaurant’s French cuisine and the feeling of community it cultivates. The Olivier menu, for example, is in honor of the management’s newest member, who hails from the French Alps of Savoie. This is the land of cheese, walnuts, morels, and veal; so fittingly, the menu starts with an arugula salad with goat cheese and walnuts. On other weeks, diners can enjoy meals inspired by server Pascal’s home of Bezier in the Languedoc region, pastry chef Dominique’s childhood in Southern Brittany at the mouth of the Loire Valley, and charcuterie chef Phillippe’s roots in the German-influenced Alsace region. In addition to the prix-fixe offerings, the à la carte menu is populated with French staples such as house-made pâtés and moules frites—the classic combination of sweet black mussels and salty french fries. Homemade sausages, duck, and trout are bedecked with indulgent touches such as gastriques and brown butter. Pastry chef Dominique whips up sweets in house, including colorful, airy macarons and a croquembouche: a tower of cream puffs that traditionally serves as the dessert at French weddings. The warmly lit dining room gives off the feel of a Provençal cottage, with natural wooden beams, exposed brick, and traditional wooden furniture. Diners can also enjoy dinner on an enclosed patio, with rustic wooden touches and strings of white lights that twinkle at night.
Inside what 5280 Magazine describes as a "125-year-old dining room with original mosaic tile and a sparkling chandelier," restaurateur Robert Thompson and his expert staff have re-created the cuisine and atmosphere of old-school Parisian bistros and brasseries. With locally sourced ingredients, artisanal cheeses, and in-house charcuterie, Chef Sergio Romero and his culinary team craft French cuisine that 5280 Magazine, in its 2011 Best New Restaurants feature, lauded as "light, fresh, and remarkable." French classics such as escargot, steak frites, and a savory crepe of the day complement a selection of cocktails made by mixologist Colin Dart. Diners can savor each bite while nestled into oversized booths or contemplating infinity on the outdoor patio.
From the beautifully composed salade Lyonnaise, a tangle of frisée, crisped potatoes and bacon lardons haloed with a fried egg, to the parting confection of chocolate mousse gateaux drizzled with caramel, Bistro Vendome – located in its own alcove just behind the hustle and bustle of Larimer Square – oozes with informal French bliss. The classic atmosphere includes antiqued mirrors, hardwood floors that creak and squeak, bistro tables and tapestry-clothed wooden chairs, offering up an unbridled sense of romance. As does the patio, a charmingly leafy respite that, during the warmer months, is flush with kaleidoscopic flowers. The small bar area is an ideal setting for a late-night rendezvous and a glass of French bubbly, or weekend brunch, when kir royales run through the veins.
Baristas at Cafe de Paris brew Novo coffee fresh for each cup and steep more than 50 different kinds of organic loose-leaf tea from International Tea Importers, filling the café with rich aromas transported inside a soft haze of steam idly spiraling through the air. Sipping microbrewed masala chai tea with pressed ginger between bites of sweet and savory crepes, panini sandwiches, and regular or gluten-free bagels, patrons may browse the Internet inside the café or listen to live jazz music and indie rock performances during weekly events. Outside on the terrace, lined with umbrella-topped tables, diners clink glasses of French wine or craft beers during nightly happy hours while strains of music linger in the background.
Sri Lankan culture incorporates distinctive southern Asian roots along with influences from the various European nations that have ruled it. As a result, the cuisine typically features a m?lange of Indian, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, and Malaysian flavors. At Sri Lanka Curry Leaf Restaurant, Lana Hillstrom remains true to the flavors of her native Sri Lanka, filling the menu with her country's eclectic cuisine. Pork and sliced mango simmer in aromatic curry, distinguished from familiar Thai or Indian versions by a signature powder that uses 21 fragrant ingredients, according to the Colorado Springs Independent. The rest of the menu includes Sri Lankan interpretations of Asian standards such as chicken tikka, fried rice, and mulligatawny soup.
Channeling the same vivaciousness as the menu, the dining room bursts with color from its sunshine-yellow walls, draped with leafy foliage and imported Sri Lankan rainbows. Framed pictures and woodwork also adorn the walls and add to the room's homey ambiance.
When Denver Westword critic Jason Sheehan visited Cracovia Restaurant and Bar, his summation of the meal ended up sounding less like a restaurant review and more like an Alice in Wonderland?style memoir dripping with passion and faux nostalgia. At one point, he recalled a desire to tackle a waiter who had walked by with a plate of cabbage rolls, so that he could "grab the golabki with [his] teeth and drink the tomato-mushroom gravy straight from the tureen." Later in the meal, he and his wife felt so connected to the food, they almost felt Polish themselves: "If our mothers had been Polish ? this would've been what we ate growing up, " Jason said, "This tastes like home cooking in the best possible way, tastes of time and care and experience and love."
Love is probably the key word here: it's not surprising that Jason and his wife were so enamored with their meal, considering Cracovia is a labor of love for husband-wife team Lester and Marie Rodzen. They named the restaurant after a Krakow hotel where they honeymooned more than a quarter-century ago, and they pour this affection for their home country into each of the from-scratch Polish dishes they create, which is part of the reason they were named ?Best German/Eastern European Restaurant Denver 2014? by Denver Westword. The aforementioned golabki?cabbage rolls stuffed with pork and rice?is one of the Rodzens' signature dishes, as are the homemade kielbasa and pierogi stuffed with meat, cabbage, cheese, or blueberries, all purchased at local farmers markets. In the spirit of its romantic inspiration, Cracovia is a perfect date-night restaurant?every Friday and Saturday night, live singers croon as couples make their way to the dining room's dance floor or three-legged racing area.