You’re braving the cold to go out to dinner. What’s a surefire way to warm up at the restaurant when Jack Frost’s nipping? A hot toddy? Warm. Sizzling fajitas? You’re getting warmer. A crackling fireplace? Warmer still, but how about foods that are brought tableside, ignited with a torch, erupt in a plume of fire and then left to crackle and sizzle on your table?
Yup, that’s it.
In November, when Quality Branded opened two new restaurants in Cherry Creek, the culinary team put a couple of fire shows on the menus. They’re serving flaming kasseri cheese at both Kini’s, a Mediterranean restaurant, and Cretans, a wine bar in the same building. At Chez Roc, a swanky Moroccan-themed piano bar, servers toast pistachios tableside.
“We like to include elements of theatrics into our food presentations, and nothing grabs more attention in the dining room than setting something on fire,” says Coady Coughlin, a chef with Quality Branded, a New York-based restaurant group that’s expanding its footprint in the Cherry Creek North neighborhood.
Beyond the pyrotechnic presentation, though, the tableside sizzle can enhance the flavors. Here are seven spots in Denver and its environs that are, quite literally, serving fire dishes.
Kasseri Cheese at Kini’s and Cretans
The kasseri cheese, which is made primarily with sheep’s milk, melts really well and has a rich butteriness. It’s finished with candied pepitas, Aleppo pepper and then flamed tableside with ouzo (a dry anise-flavored aperitif) and served with house-baked rosemary focaccia.
“Flaming it with ouzo gives the dish a very subtle anisette flavor which complements the cheese, and it also gives the dish a last-minute blast of intense heat to ensure that it’s extra gooey when the guest dips into it,” Coughlin says. 222 Clayton St., Denver
Pistachios at Chez Roc
With its zebra-striped custom wallpaper, splashes of jewel tones and lanterns, Chez Roc is a glam new Moroccan-themed piano bar slinging Tamarind Sours and harissa-spiced riffs on margaritas. Turkish pistachios are heated in their shells in a cast iron skillet and on a bed of coarse salt. Cue the cameras: When they’re delivered to the table, they get a splash of ouzo before being lit on fire for a brief moment. 222 Clayton St., Denver
S’mores at EDGE
The pastry team at EDGE at the Four Seasons Denver reimagined s’mores, serving the classic campfire dessert tableside indoors. The set-up includes a mini fire pit so you can skewer and char fluffy housemade chai-spiced marshmallows to your liking. The shareable dessert comes with homemade graham crackers, smoked milk chocolate, dark chocolate and a bourbon caramel sauce. “We wanted to imitate like you’re outside at a fire pit — but bring it inside and have that cozy feeling,” says pastry chef de partie Molly Cohen. Other sweet treats on the menu include crème brûlées and pavlovas that rotate with the seasons. 1111 14th St., Denver
Tomahawk Steak at Stoke & Rye at The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa
Come hungry and bring friends: Stoke & Rye serves a hulking, 52-ounce Tomahawk steak that’s flamed right in front of your eyes with moonshine whiskey and then carved for the table. The custom-cut Tomahawk is sourced from Denver-based Lombardi Brothers Meats, says executive chef Angel Munoz Jr., and it’s served with a side of black pepper sauce, chimichurri and a whole roasted garlic bulb. 126 Riverfront Lane, Avon
Sushi at For[a]ged
What’s a torch doing at the raw bar? It’s there to melt a decadent sake soy butter over For[a]ged’s surf n’ turf roll made with crab mix, cucumber, New York strip steak, avocado, garlic chips and fried shallots. While For[a]ged may be best known for the aforementioned raw bar and Chef Duy Pham’s exceptional knife work, this buzzy bi-level sushi spot serves lots of belly-warming dishes, too, like yaki udon and steamed buns stuffed with pork belly. 1825 Blake St., Denver
Urban Village Grill
The whole dang table sizzles at Urban Village Grill, a modern Indian restaurant at Park Meadows Mall that has outdoor grill tables where you can cook your own customized meals. Chef Charles Mani’s “Grill Your Way” menu allows you to pick from a half dozen proteins, like ribeye, brisket and shrimp. From there, you’ll choose your seasoning or marinade, like teriyaki or the malai option with yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese ginger-garlic paste and Indian spices. You can also add vegetables. 8505 Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree
Tallow Bread Service and Saganaki cheese at Fifth String
Chef Amos Watts has not one, but two flaming dishes on his menu at Fifth String.
For the Tallow Bread Service, Watts renders and clarifies beef fat and shapes it into a candle, complete with a wick, and finishes the dish with rosemary, thyme and parsley as well as fleur de sel, a delicate sea salt from Spain. That’s accompanied by bread made with Watts’ own sourdough starter plus flour he gets from Dry Storage, an artisan mill from fellow chef Kelly Whittaker. As the candle melts, diners dip pull-apart, fresh-baked bread with the seasoned beef fat. You can add on Perigord Truffles, which are in season now through the beginning of January.
Watts also serves Greek Saganaki, which was inspired by trips he took with his dad to Greek restaurants in downtown Chicago. For his spin on the flaming cheese, he uses kefalotyri (a firm, salty cheese) and flames it up with brandy, lemon and white strawberry Fresno chile jam. He’s even listed “fire” on the menu as one of the ingredients. 3316 Tejon St., Denver
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