Chef Nicholas Kayser Debuts Reinterpreted Menu at Vesta

The neighborhood has drastically recreated itself since owner Josh Wolkon opened this Blake Street original back in July of 1997 — just shortly after Coors Field was built and the block was still very bare. After nearly 20 years and several chef changes, Vesta continues to evolve with the changing industry by adding Colorado-native and new executive chef Nicholas Kayser.

“Change is good. To sustain a business for 20 years, which is what we’ve done, you’ve got to keep evolving and [be] willing to make those changes,” said owner Josh Wolkon.

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Kayser started his extensive culinary career after completing his studies at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Colorado. From there, he spent several years gaining culinary knowledge from names like Bryan Naggao, Thomas Valenti and Laurent Tournadel in cities such as New York, Las Vegas and Hong Kong. While contemplating a move to San Diego, Kayser came across a listing for Vesta, at which point he got in touch with Wolkon. After that, he decided to head back to his roots in Colorado.

“It’s good to be back home for me. The word evolution keeps getting passed around the last couple months and I think that’s just what it is,” said Kayser when asked about being involved in all these changes. “I’ve kind of been doing that bigger picture thing for a long time and it’s nice to just get to the roots of where it all started — developing flavors and dishes and tasting the fruits of the labor.”

The entire menu was refined and completed two weeks ago during the quiet debut of Kayser’s interpretation of the original which began Tuesday, November 1. Some classics stayed but were slightly reinterpreted, while others were replaced with the addition of shareable entrées.

Vesta Lucy Beaugard-7

Beef tartare

New to the menu is a chef cut 38-ounce bone-in ribeye ($90) served with roasted seasonal rotating vegetables, parsley compound butter and the choice of four house sauces including chimichurri, roasted corn and dried cherry beurre rouge. While classics with a Kayser-twist remain present such as the madras grilled venison ($36) with potato gratin, Brussels sprouts, oyster mushrooms and dried cherry beurre rouge.

A dish that is equally visually appealing as it is palate-pleasing is the beef tartare ($12) served with truffle, mushroom duxelles and white soy then topped with a runny raw quail’s egg, crisp carrot chip ribbons and peppered petite greens. Similarly categorized in presentation and taste is the lobster cioppino ($34) which is served with lobster tail, shrimp, sea bass, clams and mussels in a saffron tomato broth, grilled sourdough and saffron rouille.

Lobster Cioppino

Lobster Cioppino

Wolkons will continue to serve the downtown Denver crowd with an elevated reinterpretation of the previous menu by Kayser, the same expected hospitality and inviting ambiance, and as of next July he will officially have 20 years under his belt — which leads me to say he must be doing something right.

Vesta 1822 Blake Street, 303-296-1970

All photography by Lucy Beaugard.