What: American fine dining restaurant with Coloradan flair.
Where: 1201 Broadway St., Denver
Neighborhood: Golden Triangle
When: Daily 5:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Step inside your average hotel room and perhaps you’ll find some anonymous watercolor of a land or seascape on the wall, maybe a mass-produced poster of the same, or some recognizable landmark from the nearest city, serving as a kitschy reminder of where you are. At Denver’s Art Hotel, which opened this summer, there are over 40 works of art within the facility. These are pieces from some of the leading contemporary figures in visual media, both far-flung and locally based, and custom prints of the featured artworks that appear on each floor hang in the rooms. The team at the Art is well aware of the special place this concept holds—as a one-of-a-kind aesthetic experience and in its close remove from the overcrowded downtown market— and is eager to draw traveling businesspeople, visitors looking for a unique experience and staycationers alike to the hotel.
Certainly part of this effort is abiding a welcoming approach; that is, you don’t have to be a hotel guest to stop by to look at the art or have a drink at the bar. The other is to match the creative atmosphere with an in-house fine dining restaurant with food that accents the white of the plates just as readily as the art does that of the walls.
Visitors are pulled from the elevator bays into a minimalistic lobby area that spills toward a terrace overlooking Broadway below. Scattered tables and stools focus on a large fire pit roaring in the center. To the left, an angled glass wall draws the eye to three expansive cabana-style tables complete with fire pits and umbrellas. Collectively this outdoor area represents one of the best new rooftop patios where you can enjoy a cocktail and not feel overwhelmed by noise. From this fourth-story vantage point you may also notice how appropriately the Art has settled into its environs. Quoting the architectural features of extant Golden Triangle buildings—the orange roofing of the library, the reflective glass and granite of the Colorado History museum—the Art demonstrates an understanding of the physical landscape, maintaining tradition and adding flavor where necessary.
From outside, wander into the bar area on your right, which is beautifully backlit by Larry Bell’s metallic Light Knots. Behind the bar and retreating within, you will find more subdued seating areas (including an off-set lounge, perfectly designed for large groups looking for cocktails and business meetings, and a private dining room). However, the few tables along the outskirts of the room, with the same views found on the terrace, are the best seats in the house. The dark wood floors and muted tablecloths further enhance the visual effects of the food on the plate.
The name of the restaurant, Fire, refers to a popular quote attributed to legendary sculptor Auguste Rodin: “The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.” A fitting name twofold, for its obvious associations with art and, read again, for the hidden culinary twist, “ready to be consumed.”
Chris Jakubiec’s pedigree, polished in east coast fine dining restaurants and boutique hotels (most recently in Washington’s Plume), preceded his appointment as executive chef and culinary director for the Art Hotel and Fire. Although Jakubiec has made an effort to honor local ingredients, he has lavished attention upon less familiar items as well, referring in particular to his considerable experience in French cuisine.
Jakubiec’s kitchen is also notably conscious of plating in vibrant, warm color schemes—apt for a menu categorized under the subheads “Sparks” and “Inferno.” For the Sparks (the appetizers), a unique raw and cooked baby carrot salad ($12) with glazed and shaved variants of the root vegetable, tossed in a cumin and sherry vinaigrette, and a more traditional heirloom tomato caprese ($12) both exemplify this methodology of presentation and are just the light introduction one needs for the bigger plates. Again, while the virtues of local beef are extolled in two steak/filet options, the Colorado Lamb Tasting ($36) provides the most comprehensive offering with a cut of sirloin, a braised shoulder and two shank ravioli. Jakubiec’s expert sense of temperature also makes for well-cooked fish entrees like the Rainbow Trout Amandine ($26) and Striped Bass Mascotte ($28).
For dessert, one may dabble in any of six selections, which range among a tried-and-true lemon & ricotta crepe ($10) or a more off-the-beaten path for any fan of tropical fruits, the mango sticky rice roll ($10) made with coconut rice pudding, caramelized mango, coconut meringue and a drizzle of lime and Szechuan pepper caramel, all done up in the manner of sushi.
(Note: For any customers who’d like sit at any of the chrome high-tops or cabana-style tables on the terrace, be mindful that a separate, small-plate menu is served there from 2 – 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 2-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.)
From street level, you may notice the carport is lit by something not unlike a mechanized version of starry night sky. This overhead tapestry of snapping LED lights is sculpture by artist Leo Villareal, and it reflects the twinkling bustle of the Broadway stretch that is home to the hotel. The other large works within the bottom floor’s open-space and contoured hallways also have this pulling effect which, considering all that there is to offer upstairs, is all well and good. Even though you may call Denver home and already have a place to spend the night, do at least check out the Art Hotel for a cocktail and bites on the terrace or go all in for the most of what Jakubiec has to offer at Fire.
All photography by Camille Breslin.