One of the perks of French living is that neighborhood bistro – you know the one just down the block where everyone knows your name (and not in the cheesy “Cheers” kind of way).
The neighborhood bistro is that place where you feel at home, the food is sophisticated but not over priced, and the service is quick but attentive. The Corner House in Denver is just such a place, located in a residential community just across from Jefferson Park.
And though this bistro serves its neighborhood well, it’s also worth a trip for those of us who just want to pretend we live down the block.
Keep It Simple Stupid.
If you ask Head Chef Matt Selby about his inspiration and direction for the menu, he’ll say it is “simplicity.”
So just what is simplicity on a plate? “3 or less main ingredients,” says Selby. And that’s for the entire menu, food or drink.
This attitude transcends the menu and fills the warm but industrial space, its tucked in bar, and rounded window countertop. An average order at Corner House takes about 12-15 minutes to appear before you, which is a remarkable feat when the menu has such a diverse offering.
Simple ≠ Boring
If three ingredients sounds boring to you, you may be overdue for a taste of the Corner House fall menu.
The salads feel European (fried egg, panchetta) and inventive (curled beets, bleu cheese).
Appetizers are even more heart-warming, with bistro classics like mussels, prepared in a uniquely Denverish way with a warm tomato broth and garlic toasts. These mussels are on the small plates section, but they are absolutely meal-worthy. Grab a big glass of red and be totally satisfied.
And the best part? The price point is only $10.
Another European treat is the seared foie gras, that Chef Selby playfully pairs with the traditional fig and an un-traditional pumpkin bread pudding. The experience reminded me of my first taste of seared foie, back in 2009 in Paris. That foie was prepared by Michel Roth, head chef at the Ritz, and paired with figs and a chocolate vinaigrette as part of a chocolate festival in the city of lights.
Chef Selby’s seared foie has the same sweetness juxtaposed with saltiness that Chef Roth’s foie had on that fall day in Paris. Cue Proust-style involuntary memory experience.
On the entrée line up, Chef Selby offers some hearty dishes that reflect a Colorado pantry and a Colorado budget. The amazing fish that Selby gets from Seattle Fish Company is offered at a lower price point than most, due to the vendor’s great pricing for its restaurant partners in Denver. Selby serves it elegantly on a plate of white beans and topped with some grilled frisé. It’s the perfect fall dish.
Selby’s vegetarian option could be equally enjoyed as a side. Chinese broccoli or broccolini is definitely rising in popularity and take a fall twist with these french lentil pairing.
The biggest hit at the table, though, was the Crispy Sofrito Chicken Thigh, Selby’s take on Pollo Abuelita. Although initially reluctant to offer a chicken dish, Selby resolved his apprehensions by going with a chicken thigh over the more common chicken breast. He then took a latin direction with the treatment of the chicken and the rice, making something that truly explodes with flavor.
Translation: this is not an “I’ll have the chicken” dish. Tastebuds, rejoice!
On the desserts list, Selby helps us extend our summer peach obsession into fall with a peach crumble and gives the banana a new life in a $5 dessert.
Of course, the ultimate show stopper was a Smores Panini, which seems absolutely perfect on a brisk, fall evening.
Less Money Where Your Mouth Is
Now here’s the real kicker about the Corner House, and a kicker that makes you realize this really could become your weeknight tradition: it’s possible to order a 3 course meal for under $30.
And that’s what makes me believe that Chef Selby and his management have fully committed to making this the neighborhood’s bistro. It’s comfy, it’s tasty, and it’s reasonable.
So, meet me for mussels and a big glass of wine next Tuesday?