What: Jax Denver
Where: 1539 17th St., Denver, CO
Pros: Deliciously updated versions of classic desserts in an unexpected setting.
Cons: Jax Denver fills up fast and can get a little loud at times (especially during happy hour).
The various locations of Jax are known for one thing: seafood. For years, Jax has been solidifying its reputation as a premier Front Range (and now Kansas City) destination for pristine and sustainable seafood. While the fresh-shucked shellfish, stiff cocktails, and hopping happy hour may get all of the attention, Jax Denver is home to more than just great fish. The excellent desserts at Jax Denver in LoDo are worthy of a reputation.
All Jax restaurants are chef-driven and offer completely different menus based around the unifying theme of sustainable seafood. At Jax Denver, chef de cuisine, Eric Lee, has developed a seasonal menu of craveable and unique desserts. Although there’s no dedicated pastry chef at work, Chef Lee’s attention to details like texture and balance cross over into the realm of sweets as well.
Like many, Lee aspires to take a common, recognizable dessert element and tweak it into something new and inventive. For example, Chef Lee tops a Colorado stone fruit cobbler with crunchy, spicy bits of candied turmeric—one of the most unique dessert components I’ve had this year. The kitchen also employs the same high standards for sourcing ingredients for desserts that are used for seafood and produce. All of the chocolate comes from TCHO, a sustainably minded company. Partnerships with local farms provide stellar fruits, and local creamery, Little Man Ice Cream, supplies the frozen treats.
” The silky coconut custard resting atop a crunchy graham cracker crust was perfectly nostalgic.”
The kitchen at Jax Denver also churns out house made yogurt and crème fraîche, both of which star as components in an aquavit-spiked chocolate mousse. The Scandinavian inspired mousse is served in a mini mason jar with crunchy cocoa nibs and dehydrated blueberries for a nice contrast of textures.
On the more indulgent end of the spectrum, the bourbon milk and cookies offers an adult take on the classic. The made to order cookies come out hot and fresh from the oven with a glass of icy cold malted Buleit bourbon milk for dipping. Chef Lee worked for four years to get his cookie recipe just right— upping the salt content, chopping chunks of chocolate for better distribution, and adding a touch of whole-wheat flour for a toastier flavor. The bourbon milk is the stuff dreams are made of: a frothy, boozy concoction which falls somewhere between a cold glass of milk and a milkshake in terms of consistency. It is, without a doubt, the ideal beverage for dipping chocolate chip cookies.
Perhaps the favorite dessert of the day, however, was the coconut cream pie. The silky coconut custard resting atop a crunchy graham cracker crust was perfectly nostalgic; the lightly spiced dulce de papaya, chocolate ganache, and whipped crème fraîche made it modern. The coconut cream pie exemplifies what Chef Lee does best: striking just the right balance between deliciously nostalgic and creatively updated.
While Jax Denver may not be your first thought for desserts, it should be on your list. Though the happy hour and seafood are still the star attractions, the sweets are also top notch. These crowd-pleasing desserts are not to be missed.
All photography by Camille Breslin.