Eat + Drink

A Stoic & Genuine Birthday
During Restaurant Week in Denver, no less.

 

Yem, being Yem, wanted something very specific for his birthday dinner:

“I really want good fish and I really want risotto, too.”

I know the restaurant scene around me well enough to know that not many places have both of those things at the same time on any given day. At least not the way I knew he wanted. We were bouncing back ideas when he brought up one I recognized immediately: Stoic & Genuine. I had lunch there after our first weekend away together; he had left for the airport, and I was making time before heading home. Stoic & Genuine is another of the gems in Crafted Concepts’ Infinity Gauntlet of restaurants, which include Ultreia.

We managed to snag a last-minute reservation for a table, which we ended up swapping out for bar seating at a later time. And if I hadn’t said it before, I’ll say it now: always sit at the bar if you can (unless they have a separate menu)! Whether it’s a bar at the actual bar or a bar at the kitchen, the conversations you’ll have, both food and non-food related are always so fun and interesting.

Yhen, our server, broke down the Restaurant Week menu and although everything looked amazing, doing the math it made more sense to just order off the regular menu. Yem was questioning some of his choices but a nudge and a wink (It’s your birthday! Get whatever you want!), and some silent encouragement from Yhen later, we put our orders in. Kaitlin came around quickly with waters and Cast-Iron Cornbread (which I believe is complimentary). 

I had barely taken a bite of the crispy, buttery cornbread when I remembered I had been meaning to ask Yhen if I could get the Alaskan King Crab Gnocchi without Calabrian chilis, ’cause I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle them. I reached over the bar and asked Deb if the change was possible, and she informed me that she was actually the one in charge of making the gnocchi to begin with, so I had definitely asked the right person. She told me about how she was half Mexican and half American, and how she inherited her palate from her mom and thus couldn’t stand heat at first either and how she grew into it. I can barely stand a couple of drops of Tabasco, so she offered to swap the chilis for blistered cherry tomatoes.

While this was happening, the Octopus Mortadella came out. I was excited for Yem to try it, since I had loved it so much the first time I had it. He enjoyed it more than I thought he would, but I was a little disappointed as I couldn’t taste the candied lemon vinaigrette (my favorite component). 

He got the Creamed Leek Risotto he had been craving so much, and suffice to say, it definitely hit the spot. Warm and soft, it was comforting the way a great hug is. The capers cut through the richness, and the maitake mushrooms had juuust enough of a bite to them.

The Crispy Whole Fish of the day was branzino, topped with lemongrass, lime, Fresno chili, cilantro, and a ponzu butter sauce that was to die for. It was salty, silky and smooth. Deb had warned me that the chili might be too hot for me, but Yem enjoyed it all without so much as batting an eyelash. 

My main was a little smaller in size, but just as big in flavor: arugula gnocchi with Alaskan king crab, brown butter, garlic, lemon, and my blistered cherry tomatoes. For a moment, I wished I was the crab: tender and sweet, and able to bathe in the little pools of brown butter that graced my plate. The crunchy fried garlic against the fluffy pillows of potato, and the juicy tomatoes (which I must admit I was wary of for a split second but should have known better than to doubt Deb), and I was in heaven. My new favorite pasta? Quite possibly.

We took a beat to take in all the delicious food we had just eaten, while I tried (and failed) to inconspicuously scribble out his birthday card. We were in too deep at that point, so I flagged down Kaitlin to ask for the dessert menu. She came back, not with the menu but with two dainty bowls and a lit candle. I hadn’t seen that coming, but I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise considering my birthday last year. One more reason why I genuinely love these restaurants.

Blood Orange & Vanilla Ice Cream and Strawberry Sorbet, the last flavors of this long winter making way for the brightness of the spring we’re all anxious for.

But the best part of the night? Seeing Yem happy.

 

Stoic and Genuine is located in Denver Union Station at 1701 Wynkoop St., Denver, CO.

 

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Based mainly in Colorado. Loves cheese, rain, and starry nights. Can usually be spotted in the wild wearing a Spirit Jersey and balancing two cameras. Often laughs and cries at the same time. Barely survived one Master's program, but wants to do another.

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