Nocturne’s jazz lounge turned foodie haven is making waves in Denver’s culinary scene. Not only are they a pioneer in their industry, they’re forging the path. “More than just jazz and a proper cocktail, Nocturne explores how the arts of food and music can be combined. From lighter ‘sound bites’ of cheeses and charcuterie to a full five course chef's tasting menu, Nocturne has something to appease all appetites.” For the past year Nocturne has wowed their diners with vivid and creative interpretations of iconic albums and artists and this rendition was no exception.
Each season Chef Greg Weadick and the Nocturne culinary team select an iconic album that becomes the weekly rendition performance and inspires a special “Renditions” menu to complement. This season’s album is Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy performed by the Dave Devine Trio every Wednesday starting at 7pm through the first week of September. Ultra5280 indulged in the complete sensory experience which paired the recognizable rolling riffs of Led Zeppelin’s musical catalogue with a culinary experience imbued with innovation and enthusiasm.
For every Rendition the culinary team studies, the chosen album in depth “to bring a thoughtful expression of musical ideas to the table through texture, color, flavor, and technique.” Not only is the Chef enthusiastic about the menu he is creating, but the culinary team, the Sommelier and even the wait staff were noticeably excited to share, discuss, and hear feedback on the dishes and paired drinks. The band was equally excited to play Led Zeppelin songs and Houses of the Holy was the first CD Dave Devine purchased with his own money back in the 80s. All of this enthusiasm and passion for the album is apparent and makes for a magical evening in a venue to match.
The Dave Devine Trio interpreted the album into a jazz format as Nocturne is a jazz club, and with only a drummer, standup bassist and guitarist, they recreated the album in a way that was recognizable, yet also jazzy and improvisational. “The idea is to start with the song’s version the audience knows and then find ways to exploit small features of the song without losing the overall vibe each one creates,” explains Devine. This was appreciated as we went there wanting to hear Led Zeppelin, wanting to know the song, hum along, and listen in anticipation for the big buildups and crazy crescendos we love in Led Zeppelin’s music. “Using recognizable parts from the songs (guitar riffs, specific bass lines and drum patters, etc) establishes that recognizable tune, then I try to incorporate as much of the vocal melody with my guitar part as possible,” says Devine. “We deviate from these parts throughout the song however to build tension, and then resolve back to them to create a sense of arriving, or going back home.” In addition to the improvisation the Trio imparts, the set list itself is different each week, spanning the entire catalogue and the band experiments during every performance to keep things interesting for them as well as for repeat guests.
The Renditions menu for this season was extremely interesting, either turning very common ingredients into things we had never seen before, like a tomato sponge, or utilizing ingredients that we had to Google to figure out. The Chef’s Tasting menu is composed of five courses for $55 that we feel truly translates the selected songs into a tangible, edible display. The tasting began with Over The Hills And Far Away which featured duck prosciutto, stone fruit tartar and lavender panna cotta, a batch of ingredients that would not typically be found together within the circumference of your plate. The saltiness of the prosciutto was offset by the creaminess of the panna cotta and together they all melted inside your mouth as if in a brackish sanctuary. Perhaps the most intriguing dish of the evening followed next, set to the tune of Zeppelin's classic, The Song Remains The Same, but presenting itself as something far from the norm. The dish featured a tomato sponge that held the composition of a marshmallow, briny oysters, scallop chips and seaweed ice. The innovativeness and exploratory instincts within the second course were uncomparable. The chef and staff have full creative authority over composition of the meal leading to 100% authenticity within their dishes... and we can truly say we’ve never tasted anything like it.
The meat and potatoes of the tasting were presented in the next two courses. Rain Song covers the four seasons, so the culinary team created a dish that incorporated the tastes, sights, and crops of each of the four seasons. We really enjoyed this hearty spectrum of the seasons featuring smoked pork cheek in a fig ragout representing summer, spring onion confit, onion ash for autumn, and a good sprinkling of Gruyere Truffle snow. The Ocean followed suit and highlighted the salt and robustness of life under water. The dish revolved around a perfectly cooked piece of black cod and sauteed greens with just a hint of chile peppered throughout the plate that added an interesting heat to the dish. The course ended with a stegosaurus dessert (not actual name) inspired by Zeppelin’s song, D’yer Mak’er. Brownie and raspberry chips stuck out of the coconut mango sorbet reflecting the shape of the prehistoric spines of the stegosaurus. All of this was placed atop a spiced chocolate pudding which added a thoughtful heat to an otherwise sweet end to our meal.
While the five course menu is highly recommended from your Ultra5280 staff, Nocturne also has a bunch of regular and delicious staples. For those who want a safe standard they know they’ll enjoy, there are sandwiches with house made pomme frites and a chimichurri hanger steak cooked to your preference. A personal and staff favorite is the Garden salad composed of hydroponic red oak Bibb lettuce, arugula, shaved carrot and fennel, cherry tomatoes, roasted beets, dragon beans, and roasted pepper vinaigrette - featuring many vegetables from their own garden!
From drinks after work to late night bubbles (50% off after 11pm) and date nights to anniversary celebrations, Nocturne has a bit of everything to impress anyone. Our love of jazz and great food has finally come to fruition and found a home within RiNo’s Nocturne. You can experience the Led Zeppelin 5 course dinner/jazz every Wednesday night from 6:00pm to 12:30am. For more information visit: www.nocturnejazz.com
Reviewed by Tiffany Candelaria