Dairy Block’s For[a]ged is One of Denver’s Hottest New Restaurants

“We opened during the worst week possible,” said proprietor, Brent Walker. One month later, Dairy Block’s lustrous new locale is forging a path to success. After all — few restaurants could confidently initiate a grand opening while the Mile High City was blanketed in snow and preoccupied with holiday anticipation. Whether or not you are familiar with Chef Duy Pham and the revered group behind Parker Garage, this Dairy Block newcomer and conspicuous architectural gem was designed to flourish in a league of its own. 

From the striking dishes to seductive lighting and luxurious velvet booths — meticulous planning is evident at For[a]ged. The open, inviting layout boasts two levels, offering multiple dining experiences. “Everything we do here has a purpose,” said Walker. Chef Pham — who studied under certified master chef and culinary Olympic gold medalist Robert Mancuso as well as legendary French chef Jean-Louis Palladin — has driven For[a]ged in a distinctly different direction from Parker Garage. Pham, Walker, Meghan Gold and their handpicked lineup of hospitality professionals have cultivated a destination built largely upon exceptional relationships and thoughtful execution. While the distinguished team may possess different areas of expertise, their unique history with ventures ranging from raising farm animals to collaborating with winemakers has ultimately come full circle for this compelling project.

For[a]ged tastefully integrates approachable American fare, classic French techniques and refined Japanese influences — without the overwhelming pretension. Exotic fish, prime meat, pasta and inventive vegetarian options may be discovered on the progressively planned menu. The house chips and dip ($9-$13) or steamed mussels ($18) — with pancetta, bleu cheese and potatoes in a  white wine broth — make satisfying starters while the barramundi ($35) and succulent lamb two ways ($46) are among the sublimely crafted entrees. Intrepid guests may also indulge in chef Pham’s omakase dining experience (starting at $125) and succumb to an orbit of mesmerizing dishes. To illustrate this delicious endeavor, imagine the assemblage of savory egg custard with uni and caviar, bluefin tuna complimented with black garlic, tender nigiri style duck topped with foie gras and mouthwatering wagyu steak — elevated with unconventional ingredients such as fire ants and sea snails.

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The surprisingly affordable lunchtime menu includes everything from fresh sushi selections to a Korean chicken sandwich ($13) constructed with chicken thigh meat, pickled vegetables, bibb lettuce, habañero aioli and spicy Korean glaze on a brioche bun. If this eccentric profusion of plates triggers a sense of hesitance, you probably aren’t alone. However, Pham’s delectable conglomeration is as cohesive as it is creative. For[a]ged is not a restaurant identifying with “fusion” and the raw bar is not a “sushi bar.” In the kitchen, bright-eyed prodigy Jacob Lechner holds the title of executive chef — turning out a combination of seasonal specials as well as Parker Garage favorites under Pham’s direction. After beginning his career assuming an entry-level position with Parker Garage, pursuing a culinary education, then cooking in Seattle’s Space Needle — 23-year-old Lechner rejoined the ambitious team as For[a]ged was quietly conceptualized in LoDo’s hip micro-district.

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Despite being a driving force behind For[a]ged, Pham himself takes little credit for the inevitable success of his latest enterprise. As expressed by the dynamic culinarian — this cutting edge concept is merely an extension of his legacy. Guests may admire Pham’s imagination and precision from the gleaming eight-seat raw bar where everything from his hand-forged Japanese carbon steel knives to beautifully presented cuts of fish may be attributed to several decades of mastery. Nevertheless, this culinary pioneer graciously deflects the attention to his devoted team.

According to Pham, these esteemed individuals are the “backbone” of the operation. One of these essential constituents is hospitality veteran Martin Jaderko, who fulfills the role of assistant general manager while overseeing the extensive bar program.

“I think what sets us apart is the passion that has been [spilled] into this restaurant, starting from our chefs and carried away by the staff. The team we have comes from various backgrounds in the industry and take a lot of pride in the product they provide. Duy, Jacob and the rest of our management team are so passionate about the product, it’s impossible to not get as excited about it as they are,” said Jaderko.

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The bar program at For[a]ged balances accessibility and exclusivity with premium cocktails, over 120 whiskey and scotch selections, 30 wines by the glass and 50 wines by the bottle, including Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel bottles under the private label of 19420 Mainstreet Brand — which are produced for For[a]ged and Parker Garage by Boulder-bred winemaker Jesse Katz of Devil Proof Vineyards. A private label W.L. Weller special reserve bourbon and Eagle Rare Kentucky straight bourbon are also available in the enticing bar.

After a chance encounter with the Parker Garage team, Jaderko experienced an immediate connection — which is perceptible from his enthusiasm about the prodigious undertaking. Jaderko states, “We take a lot of pride in sourcing ingredients we determine best suit our program at For[a]ged. The bar team and I take our time finding the right product to match what we are looking for, whether it’s local distilleries producing fun cordials or obscure Amari from France. Once the dust settles we are eager to get out and start sourcing specific ingredients locally in Colorado, and eventually around the world.”

“General mastery” and “relentless pursuit” are manifested throughout For[a]ged along with a profound sense of solidarity. The first-class bar, stunning dining rooms, and sleek raw bar exude both comfort and opulence — making For[a]ged an ideal location for lunch or dinner seven days a week.  According to Walker, this is only the beginning. A spectacular, quarter-million-dollar chandelier that is rumored to look  “like flames are coming out of the ceiling” is awaiting installation along with other thoughtfully selected pieces to enhance the already enchanting atmosphere. Additionally, private wine dinners and weekend brunch are on the horizon.

With all of these impressive elements and a zealous team to propel it forward in Denver’s cut-throat restaurant scene — For[a]ged is destined to become an eminent staple for dining out in the Mile High City.

All photography by Lukas Crosby.

For[a]ged is located at 1825 Blake St., Denver and it is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more info go here.

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