On Thursday, November 14 Mister Oso opened its doors in the location that previously held The Populist. Chef Blake Edmunds and chef de cuisine Russel Stippich — who previously helmed The Populist’s kitchen — are bringing a succinct menu of salads, smoked and roasted meats, tacos, ceviches and crudos. A casual atmosphere, elegant plating and innovative execution delight the senses. Designed to be something of a younger brother to the restaurant group’s other locale, Culinary Creative’s Señor Bear, Oso presents all the quality of the original while maintaining enough imagination to distinguish itself as its own entity.
Edmunds and Stippich execute Latin-inspired food with originality and grace. Menu items are creative, but the cuisine shines mostly in its careful preparation and well-defined technique. Dishes are simple on paper but the flavor is riveting. The crispy pig salad comes with a hearty portion of hog topped with a tangy glaze, slaw salad with tamarind dressing and fried shavings of pig ears. The albacore tuna ceviche comes spicy with cucumber, ginger, citrus, jalapeno and mezcal comprising the aromatic broth. The tacos perhaps best exemplify the chefs’ manifold talent. The shrimp and pork chorizo taco — served on either duck fat flour tortillas from Caramelo Tortillas or corn tortillas from Abbondanza Organic Seeds and Produce — sees a thick slab of sausage ground from both meats topped with confit garlic and cilantro. The lamb barbacoa is equally generous, covered with a mound of crunchy salted cabbage.
The interior alone is enough reason to visit. Styled by Shike Design, the space pays homage to colorful Latin American and Caribbean coastal cities’ architecture. The restaurant is intimate, the 60-seat dining room is meant to inspire joviality. The design nicely matches the cuisine, both imparting easygoing brilliance.
Culinary Creative Group has the Midas Touch. Mister Oso is yet another indication of the restaurant group helping to situate Denver as a real culinary destination. The spot’s unassuming excellence positions it as a superb heir to The Populist’s space, with its ingenuity allowing it to shine above and beyond its fellow bear.
Mister Oso is located at 3163 Larimer St., Denver. It is open Sunday – Thursday 5 – 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 5 – 11 p.m.
All photography by Adrienne Thomas.