There’s an old saying that suggests that disaster is assured when there are too many cooks in the kitchen. For Morin — a new French restaurant opening downtown this weekend — this couldn’t be further from the case. In fact, the many unique contributors have managed to produce something that is markedly greater than the sum of their already accomplished parts. Culinary Creative Group partners Juan Padro, Katie O’Shea and chef Max Mackissock (Señor Bear, Bar Dough, Tap and Burger restaurants) Denver developer and preservationist Charlie Woolley and Rino Yacht Club’s McLain Hedges and Mary Allison Wright have combined forces to bring about a new concept that is truly astounding. The presence of Colt and Gray’s Kevin Burke and Culinary Creative’s Michael Cerretani in the front of the house doesn’t hurt anything either.
The decision to revamp the old Wazee Supper Club was not taken lightly. The iconic space — and the famed dumbwaiter — hold a special place in many local’s hearts. Morin’s update is decidedly more chic. The centerpiece — an inverted rendition of famed French Alp Mont Blanc — that hangs over the bar was designed by Raw Creatives and ties the room together with its digital-looking grace. An abstract interpretation of Normandy — also from Raw — lines one of the original brick walls, overlaying some existing stained glass that was uncovered during the renovation. The cozy upstairs — which requires substantial stooping from anyone over six feet — is as luxurious as it is compact. Never ones to forget their predecessors, the group has assured that the dumbwaiter is still intact.
The food menu is broken down into seven sections — hors d’oeuvres, potatoes, vegetables, seafood, meat, sweets and petit fours. The Radis ($16) is poached, raw and shaved radish, a healthy dollop of Rodolphe le Meunier butter — the house-favorite of many three-star Michelin restaurants — a sweet brown bread and pickled shallot. The dish is obviously a textural wonder, with presentation and flavor coming in just the slightest fraction behind. The Rosti Gaufrette ($7) is a crispy potato waffle with bacon cooked in, accompanied by a pillow of buttermilk and farmhouse herbs. All of Morin’s potato dishes come with the option of adding 15 grams of caviar — either the Calvisius for $30 or the Black River Ostera for $60. The luxurious accouterment certainly ties the dish together, elevating the already sturdy course.
The Fletan ($24) is Swiss chard wrapped halibut, celtuce and avocado Bearnaise — perhaps the fluffiest whipped concoction to ever grace a dinner plate. The Magret de Canard ($22) is grilled duck breast, flageolet bean, pickled chanterelle, charred onion, mushroom pate and calvados jus poured on table-side. Ingredients and recipes matter, but the real magic of Morin’s cuisine is to found in the meticulous focus on technique. Every aspect of texture, flavor and presentation have been carefully developed for maximum impact.
As strong as the dinner is, the dessert is an absolute must. The Gateau au Chocolat ($8) is caramel cremeaux, a chocolate sponge tower, black lime peanut ice cream, chocolate pavlova and banana lime espuma. The eye-catching dish can inspire greed in even those most averse to dessert. The petit four ($1.75) is one of the best ways to experience pastry chef William O’Leary’s mastery of the craft. The selection includes bon bons, puffs and caramels that will make you forever forsake their more basic, store-bought counterparts.
Hedges and Wright’s contribution includes a handful of inventive cocktails and roughly 160 wines — with a strong focus on organic and biodynamic selections. As with everything else, the two have paid remarkable attention to providing drinks that not only shine on their own right but integrate exquisitely with the rest of the menu. The daiquiri ($13) is Rhum JM 100, winter melon and salty lime — the result is lightyears away from the sugar-saturated version that has become commonplace.
Mackissock recognizes that the Supper Club left fairly large shoes to fill. He hopes that Morin can become a lasting institution that helps to define Denver dining in years to come. In order to so, the chef draws major inspiration from French cuisine’s global nature, particularly the way ingredients from colonial lands have found their way into today’s fine dining. The food has very obvious foundations but the creative freedom has shaped the cuisine into some of the most exciting fare arriving in the city this fall.
Morin is located at 1600 15th St. It is open Sunday through Thursday 5 – 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 5 – 11 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.