Ultra5280’s visit to Root Down, Justin Cucci’s first Edible Beats Restaurant, wraps up our series we began late December. If you happened to miss the previous two, scroll down and start at the beginning with Linger, then Ophelia’s. And by the time you’ve finished reading this article you’ll see why we felt it was important you knew about this trendy trio and how their focus on flavor, quality, sustainability and creativity makes them a staple in the Denver food scene.
Root Down opened back in December 2008 in a former mid-century gas station, and in pure Cucci fashion he incorporated many of the original elements into the new décor. A style that has rung true in each restaurant debut since. Root Down’s menu is focused on offering sustainable protein and vegetable based dishes using produce from their gardens, local growers and purveyors to create globally influenced seasonal cuisine.
We started with their most popular starter, Devils on Horesback, which we noticed is on the menu at Linger too. What’s cool though is each restaurant’s version is different to reflect their individual style. At Root Down the Devils are smoked almond-stuffed Peppadew Peppers, wrapped in tender belly bacon, and sauced in Gournay cheese fondue. Take my word that these little Devils rode us straight to taste bud heaven.
Next we had the Butternut Squash Risotto with the Root Down/local touch of purple quinoa from Southern Colorado. The dish itself was beautiful and the texture was dense and creamy even with the added the quinoa. The butternut squash flavor was rather subtle, but I could be a tough critic having just returned from ten days in Italy. My bad!!
The next dish was even more interesting, one because we didn’t order it, two because it was the nightly special thus not on the menu, and third because it required you to work for the meal and get a little messy. The dish consisted of two diver scallops atop prawns in a Thai based sauce with jam, baby carrots and Brussels Sprout garnish. The scallops were soft and buttery, but the prawns underneath took a fearless eater, some figuring out and extra napkins.
The Longs Peak Rack of Lamb was a pleasant surprise after defiling a couple prawns in the previous course. The dish consisted of two large bone-in lamb chops atop Farro with baby carrots, a layered sweet potato and apple tower with a melted cheese top, and Pear-Pepita Salsa. The creamy sweet carrots and potatoes were perfectly offset by the crisp tartness of the pears and apples and rounded off by the hearty herbed Farro base. The lamb was exceptionally tender and flavorful without tasting gamy and was the perfect dish to satisfy winter warmer cravings!
If you’re looking to surprise us with something, we’d tell you to follow suit of the Root Down staff and surprise us with a free dessert trio! The kind and gracious staff and Executive Chef Jeremy Kittelson prepared a sample of the first three desserts listed on the menu: Chocolate Bombe, Eggnog Bread Pudding and Banana Crème Brulee Pie. So this “Pie” … its texture was more like flan than a crème brulèe and was topped with whipped sour cream instead of the traditional caramelized sugar crust, the banana slices next to it had a brulèed crust though. The base of the pie was that amazing flavor combo of crunchy peanuts and creamy chocolate. The Eggnog bread pudding was fluffy and saturated with rich eggnog flavor, but our favorite part was the side of Bourbon ice cream! And for the chocolate aficionados there’s the almond brownie tucked inside a whipped chocolate ganache wrapped in a chocolate shell with vanilla cream, appropriately named the Chocolate Bombe. They’re right, it’s bomb.
Based off their names none of these desserts were what you would expect, but now that I’ve said that I realize nothing is really quite what you expect at Cucci’s restaurants. Everything they create has its own twist and incorporates unique local and seasonal ingredients, like the risotto that unexpectedly had little specks of purple quinoa!
We were happily surprised to see all three of Cucci’s restaurants participating in Denver Restaurant Week February 26 to March 6th which offers a three course menu for only $30 per person. If you’ve never treated yourself to any of these restaurants there’s no better time than snagging that special someone for a Valentine’s Day retreat!