Dining outside in the summer is one of the best ways to remember that life is good. To do so in an elegant fashion — with cocktails, dim sum and sushi atop the roof of Denver’s sexiest new hotel — is pure opulence. Enter Departure Elevated, the latest addition from Sage Restaurant Group — a veritable Shangri-La clad in white. True to the title, the place transports guests away from the mundane, makes a stop at relaxation and arrives somewhere in the realm of indulgence. Thoughtfully tended foliage, throne-like wicker lounge chairs, fire pits, a stone bar and well-curated house music invites patrons to let their hair down, put their feet up and rejoice.
Everything about the Halcyon Hotel is seductive. From the lobby that appears to have sprung directly from the pages of a Williams-Sonoma catalog, to the futuristic elevator ride required to reach the patio, every detail invites you in. As the steel doors open, visitors are welcomed by a lavish stone bar and a remarkably attentive staff. Wandering the sprawling space presents multiple views of the city and the connected Halcyon pool further solidifies the festive atmosphere — despite swimming being for hotel guests only. The atmosphere alone is certainly strong enough to carry the place, but the food and drink manage to rival the scenery.
The worthy selection of beer, wine, sake and cocktails stays true to the season clearly mean business. We loved the Tao of Tanuki ($12) that is Takara shochu, lime, watermelon, basil and soda water served with a spicy chili-salt rim. The Tengu Tea ($13) is Plymouth gin — St. Germain, green tea, honey, mint, lemon, angostura and sparkling wine served in a ceramic fish — despite being undeniably boozy, the green tea and honey sit center stage. The Battle of Batida ($14) is good weather distilled and served over ice. Consisting of barrel aged Novo Fogo cachaça, coconut milk, passion fruit and lime, it drinks like a distinctly un-frou frou piña colada.
Executive chef Khamla Vongsakoun and a small team deliver extraordinary snacks from a tiny cart-like kitchen just to the right of the entrance. As soon as you emerge you will see one of the highly-trained masters at work, slicing sushi and artfully arranging small plates. At first sight, the menu — consisting of only two dim sum and five sushi items — may seem sparse, but Vongsakoun and his team prove that less is more. Every piece is crafted with finesse, each plate perfectly portioned for snacking. The chicken char siu bao ($4) is two puffed bao filled with smoked chicken, hoisin, sesame and black bean — finger food of the highest order. The smoked salmon roll ($11) updates the traditional model with a hint of spicy yellow mustard and yuzu kosho, while the spicy tuna roll ($12) delivers the funk with fermented chili, avocado and sesame. Plans to introduce a grill and the associated skewers are just around the corner with frequent menu updates highlighting the innovative and dynamic nature of the team keeping things ever-interesting.
Departure Elevated achieves the difficult task of creating a space that feels entirely outside of the confines of the city that surrounds it. Summer in Colorado makes travel largely unnecessary, and Elevated’s dreamy atmosphere intensifies the sense of being on vacation at home. Whether keen on escaping the bustle of the daily grind or simply treating yourself to a moment of serenity, this is the place.
Departure Elevated is located at 249 Columbine St., Denver. It is open Monday – Friday 4 p.m. – close, Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. – close.
All Photography by Danielle Webster.