Version 2.0 of the Portland based pan-Asian restaurant and lounge Departure just unveiled its dim sum cart. Based in Cherry Creek, the spot boasts one of the most highly stylized and elegant interiors in Denver. The bar is reminiscent of the trendiest locales in Tokyo — ornate wood structures separate the multiple dining areas on each side. Attached to the Halcyon Hotel, both restaurant and accommodations achieve the difficult task of being incredibly sophisticated without ever crossing the line into pretension. Everything about the place is truly luxurious — food, drink, service and presentation are all executed with the same highly impressive focus.
On Saturday, January 28, a cart service was added to their already impressive brunch repertoire. Helmed by Top Chef and Jean-Georges alumni Gregory Gourdet, the dim sum selection continues the tradition of what patrons have come to expect from the young locale — unparalleled excellence and simple but forward-thinking refinement. Dishes are cooked fresh, piled high on the pushcart and wheeled around the sprawling 105 seat space. Hungry patrons can pick and choose — opting for pointing at whatever looks or smells best. Served along side is an expanded brunch menu with larger plates — gluten free and vegan menus are also available for all meal periods.
The small plate menu includes thirteen highly affordable items — not one dish tops eight dollars. The Departure wings ($5) are produced by snipping off the second bone at the joint, compressing the meat, lightly breading and coating with an incredible sweet and spicy sauce — a very labor intensive process that yields riveting results. The pork and kimchi dumpling ($6) is pork, green onion, Korean chili, and kimchi wrapped in a dough with more kimchi cooked right in. They are well spiced without being overbearing — the vinegar elements of the Korean cabbage perfectly balanced. On the sweeter side of things the five spice bun ($4) is cooked dough with coconut, macadamia and sesame — a perfect way to close out the protein rich feast.
No good brunch is complete without a quality selection of beverages to assuage the preceding night’s indiscretions. In addition to their standard cocktail options the brunch menu has five items listed under the appropriate heading of Day Drinking. The Departure bloody mary ($10) is Takara shochu (a Japanese clear liquor vaguely reminiscent of vodka), and kimchi infused bloody mary garnished with house pickles, kimchi and olives — it has a kick and is absolutely delightful. The tamarind mimosa ($10) is prosecco, orange juice, tamarind and Peychaud’s bitters. The tropical sweetness of the tamarind is a welcome addition to the cocktail, helping to alleviate the potential for an overly-acidic flavor that often accompanies a mimosa by less skilled hands.
Departure, 249 Columbine St., Denver. To make a reservation call 720-772-5020. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
All Photography by Danielle Webster.