Sunday, July 1, 2012

Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar

Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar opened in March 2011 as a sophisticated yet approachable New American neighborhood restaurant with a strong focus on the relationship between accessible wines and seasonal food offerings. Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Denver’s vibrant cultural center along 14th Street, across the Colorado Convention Center and Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and adjacent to the Denver Theatre District.

After a hot day outside at the baseball game, we wanted to find somewhere close enough to walk from our hotel for a nice relaxing dinner.  Most of the trendy restaurants were all booked up, so Keith found Row 14 that had an open reservation for the night.  We were seated in a nice booth and the interior was very modernly decorated with a large dining area opposite a long bar across the wall.  Our server greeted us and immediately told us about the night's special before we had a chance to look at the menu.  Although it sounded appetizing (I think it was a fish of some sort), I didn't feel like having a large entree and was happy to see an expansive small bites section of the menu.

While Keith overlooked the food options, I glanced at the wine menu and was happy to see they offered flights.  Since we were rejected beer flights at lunch, I knew I wanted to try the Colorado Flight ($14) that featured a viognier, pinot noir, and cabernet sauvignon all from Colorado.  The wine itself was satisfactory but not quite extraordinary.  It was similar to California wines but not as rich in flavor as European or even Australian wines.  Nevertheless, I was a happy camper.  From the menu, we decided to share 4 items plus a side, which ended up being plenty of food for us.  Additionally, we ordered an extra dish for Keith to try, the Philly Cheesesteak Empanadas, that came out of the kitchen first along with the Octopus Flatbread.  Presented like art on a plate, each dish reminded me of a painting.  Keith found the empanadas to be very tasty, just like a cheesesteak, and really enjoyed the red pepper marmalade on top.  The flatbread, however, was a confusing pile of ingredients. So much that when the server brought it to the table, she stopped, thinking they forgot to put the main ingredient of octopus on it. She took it back to the kitchen and then immediately brought it back saying that it was indeed buried in there somewhere.  The flavor mirrored the look of the dish, confusing with too many things going on.  The flatbread would be much better if it were presented simply in order to let the octopus shine.

Next to come to the table was the XO Shrimp Foie Rangoons and Escargot Bruschetta.  The rangoons looked pretty with the three sauces underneath.  The sweet chile soy was a thick reduction that was overly sweet, but tasted better when mixed with the foie gras "butter" sauce.  Keith really enjoyed these rangoons, whereas I thought they were satisfactory.  I think anything in a fried wonton basically tastes the same to me.  The bruschetta was very chunky with whole grape tomatoes, whole escargot and mushrooms.  It was a little clumsy to eat and I wish the elements were chopped up a bit. The flavor was interesting with the strong arugula pesto and overall I liked this dish.  After, came the heavier dish of Niman Ranch Pork Cheek and a side of creamy polenta.  I just tried a piece of the eggplant and a small piece of the tender pork, while Keith ate the rest of it.  The pork had a nice barbecue, slow roasted flavor and paired perfectly with the decadent creamy polenta.  We could have licked the bowl of that polenta, it was so good.

After all these mini courses, I still had a full glass of red wine left, and was craving something chocolaty to finish out the meal. We decided to share the Dark Chocolate Semifreddo and I really enjoyed the sweet coconut sorbet that came with it.  The semifreddo itself was overly frozen, and almost too hard to break apart and eat.  Overall, each dish was creative and delicious and I appreciated the contemporary plating style and use of fresh ingredients.  I really enjoyed this bistro and wine bar and would recommend it for those  staying nearby the Convention Center in downtown Denver.

Total Rating: 4.325
Food: 4.5, Price: 4, Service: 4, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Octopus Flatbread
pickled ramp, cauliflower, house rasins, aleppo chile tomato sauce

Escargot Bruschetta
basil, fresh mozz, shiemji mushrooms, aspen moon arugula pesto

XO Shrimp Foie Rangoons
foie gras butter, cilantro, tobiko, sweet chile soy

Creamy Polenta
arbequina olive oil

Niman Ranch Pork Cheek
eggplant roulade, fried quail egg, spicy hoisin, carrot puree

Dark Chocolate Semifreddo
curry-scented peanut brittle, chile ganache, coconut sorbet

Plus Keith ate:
Philly Cheesesteak Empanadas
scallion oil, ailoi, red pepper marmalade

Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

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