Ad Hominem opened its doors in spring and in the short time since launch it has turned out four different menu concepts in an attempt to hone in on a perfect blend between a fine-tuned dining experience and a frequent neighborhood favorite. The approach here has always been to offer a sustainable, locally sourced product and the new fall menu aims to do just that. The fresh design speaks to a tapas-style, multi-course dining experience and now aims to give the guest an opportunity to steer their meal themselves by choosing from a selection of shareable plates designed with innovative attention to detail and offered at an approachable price point.
The restaurant is owned and operated by the Kurz family. Nora and Thomas Kurz crunch the numbers on the financial side of the operation while their son Julian mans the kitchen and their daughter Monique backs the bar. When a mother and father greet you at the door, a sister mixes your cocktail and a son prepares you a dinner — the family values at the foundation of hospitality truly become accentuated — but they couldn’t do it alone. The Kurz’ welcomed executive chef Chris Martinez — previously of Rioja — to the family from day one to help oversee flavor development in the kitchen. Martinez has worked vigorously experimenting, changing and modifying the culinary identity since opening with hopes of making his splash amongst the wave of restaurant openings that has crashed over our Mile High city this past year.
“Chefs by nature are creative, so they don’t want to budge but they have to consider what the people want,” said owner Nora Kurz.
The cuisine at Ad Hominem is globally inspired and draws largely from Italian, Central American and East Asian influences. But just like any venture that identifies with multiples cultures, the team has juggled with finding a way to understand the wants and needs of the neighborhood and the Golden Triangle neighborhood. From the get-go, the underlying mission has been to make a mark on the community, build brand loyalty and ultimately, refine the flavor of the restaurant to make it fit. In the early stages, Ad hominem was best described as an “occasion restaurant.” Which — in a broader sense — means the establishment offers a high-quality experience at a price point that can only coax the average consumers to open their wallets once or twice a year. While this type of service is often successful, the team believes that The Golden Triangle will benefit more from a shift towards a hybrid style service — one that touches on the best of both worlds. The menu now offers guests the option to pop in a few times a week for a craft sandwich and a brew or to bring in the significant other for an anniversary date to enjoy a five-course meal complete and wine pairings — the choice is now yours.
The from scratch, open kitchen is the focal point of the space and backs the entire end of the 120+ seat dining room on 9th and Acoma street. Highlights from chefs toolbox include the open-flame Yakatori grill — left behind from the previous Charcoal tenants — a heavy emphasis on in-house pickling and preserving, a pasta machine and a drayage/cured meat program. Martinez and his team are putting quality ingredients and sustainability sourced method above all to produce unique, globally inspired plates that you can feel good about eating without a need to break the bank when the bill comes to the table.
“To me cooking is one of the highest forms of art. Who else has to take something that came from the dirt, clean it, cook it, and transform it into a piece of art that is as pleasing to the palate as it is to the eye? So I get confused when others try to transform the product away from what nature intended it to be… I want to change it as little as possible…” said Martinez
Offerings on the fall menu are split into three subsections — “The Garden,” “Share Plates” and “Entrees” — with most items available in gluten-free variations and all food priced under the $35 mark. The must-have from “the garden” is the beet tartare ($5). This sweet vegetarian variation of a steakhouse classic combines peppy horseradish and an umami zing of egg yolk vinaigrette with the residual sweetness of diced beets and fresh pear. Shareable highlights include the charcuterie board ($18) which showcases house-cured duck prosciutto and a funky-sour salumi brought in from in NYC. The chili cheddar bratwurst ($13) is cranked in-house and pays tribute to classic German flavor profiles — plated with a red cabbage and green apple slaw — a fresh grind is always something worth noting.
The entree section of the menu offers heavy hitter composed dishes like the Steak and Frites ($32) and a whole roasted chicken ($23) that speak to comforting, familiar flavors aimed at the masses — but the “unusuals” are the things we tend to be drawn towards when exploring a new menu rollout. The Macarono ($18) is a poster child pasta dish that really speaks to the core inventive fundamentals behind the Ad Hominem concept. The dish introduces the world to Macarono — a wide, tube-shaped noodle that was turned in-house. Martinez designed it to soak up more sauce than a macaroni shape. The dish joins a carbonara-style egg yolk cream, kale, lemon-preserve gremolata and house-turned lamb sausage sourced from the Buckner Family Farm in Boulder. The caramelized carrot risotto ($22) is vegetarian, gluten-free and our favorite thing on the menu. A combination of parsnips, cashews and baby turnips sing sweet earthy bold flavors and offer a rich yet refreshing entree without the need to incorporate any animal product.
The cocktail menu has been revamped and trimmed back to include a short list of traditional cocktails and a crowd-pleasing rotating list local beers on draft. Amongst the creations that have been around the block a few times — the bee’s knees ($10) and the Paloma ($10) — is the Ad Hominem variation of the boulevardier which it is calling the Loan Shark ($10). This slow-sipper is served on a big cube and blends bourbon, Campari, amaretto, Averna amaro, and bitters — garnished with an orange twist — this herbaceous bitter libation stands out amongst the list of classic cocktails offering from the bar.
Ad Hominem blends care fine dining ideals like sustainable sourcing and seasonal ingredients with a desire to create a neighborhood destination that suits not only the gourmand but the weekly social dinner. Martinez and the Kurz’ family have experimented with multiple menus during the adolescent stages of the restaurant and the release of the fall menu marks the most recent attempt at making a culinary mark in Denver food scene and a solidifying a home in the Golden Triangle.
Ad Hominem is located at 43 W 9th Ave, Denver and is open for dinner Sunday – Thursday, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. and Friday – Saturday from 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. with happy hour running between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
All Photography by Brittni Bell Warshaw