1515 Restaurant 6

New American Fare + Fine Dining

Modernist cuisine gets a bad rap. It’s too “out there.” The portions are too small. What’s with all the foams? While all of those criticisms can be valid (depending on the restaurant), modernist cuisine can also be extremely inventive, surprising and – most importantly – delicious, when done right. Downtown’s 1515 Restaurant is doing it right.

For the uninitiated, modern cooking techniques tend to blend science and food. Often called molecular gastronomy, it uses the principles of chemistry, physics and biology to create amazing food presented in new and interesting ways. While the food may look different – common tricks are to turn everyday edibles into powders, caviar-like beads and, yes, foams – the flavors should still be familiar, just in a different presentation.

It’s basically just creative chefs playing with their food. And who doesn’t want to have fun with their dining experience?

At 1515, it’s more than just modern. The flavor combinations and dishes are traditional, just with an avant garde spin put on them. Think rack of lamb with tarragon powder, or butter-poached lobster with wasabi foam. It’s food you’re already comfortable with, but with an extra dash of fun.Modernist cuisine gets a bad rap. It’s too “out there.” The portions are too small. What’s with all the foams? While all of those criticisms can be valid (depending on the restaurant), modernist cuisine can also be extremely inventive, surprising and – most importantly – delicious, when done right. Downtown’s 1515 Restaurant is doing it right.

The atmosphere at 1515 has a similar feel to the food – traditional, with a twist. The restaurant, which has been at its namesake location for 18 years, consists of a spacious downstairs bar (one of downtown’s best-kept happy hour secrets) and an upstairs dining room. The dining room has a clean, contemporary feel, but it’s still very warm. It also houses an impressive wine collection, displayed in a wine cellar that separates the main dining room from another large space used for private events.

Appetizers are among the menu’s highlights, with the Ishiyaki-style cooking of Colorado 7X Wagyu beef ($19) providing some hands-on entertainment. The beef – almost melt-in-your-mouth buttery if you leave it on the rare side – is served alongside a hot, steaming stone. Set the meat on the stone, add a bit of the accompanying ponzu sauce, and within a minute of sizzling you’ve got a delicious mouthful.

Entrees are plentiful and tend to be meat-centric. The Boulder Lamb Trio ($34) features rack of lamb, shoulder and belly with a bean ragout and tarragon powder. 1515 respects their meats, sourcing the best quality products and cooking them just enough to bring out the best flavor. The lamb is no exception, coming out perfectly pink and tender.

The Bouillabaisse ($37) has great presentation – liquid nitrogen is poured under the bowl tableside to create a smoky, aromatic platter. Once the smoke has cleared, you’re left with a bowl full of clams, mussels, snapper, lobster and velvety sauce. The sauce is so good that you’ll want to scoop up every last drop. We just wish that the bread was left plain instead of being topped with unnecessary crab.

The playfulness extends to the dessert menu, and the flaming Cherries Jubilee ($12) is a standout. The Bing cherry, brown butter caramel ice cream and cinnamon crumble concoction is set afire with Bacardi 151 rum. It’s owner Gene Tang’s favorite dessert, and with good reason.

Instead of being modern, cocktails are a throwback, with names like the 1940s Lauren Bacall (sparkling wine and grapefruit) and Picasso Wine Cocktail (merlot, spiced rum, lavender foam and an absinthe rinse). They’re light and well-balanced, but many people come for the wine. After all, 1515 has won Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence every year since 2001. The list is impressive, with an above average by the glass selection.

1515 believes that food should be fun, but still refined and familiar. It’s classic, but with a distinctly contemporary flourish. And what could be more modern than that?

1515 Restaurant

1515 Market St.

Denver

303.571.0011

1515Restaurant.com