Barrel-aged cocktails are gimmicky already, so the bar jacks up the gimmick, mixing genever and Szechuan peppercorns into a cask “old fashioned.” It’s a neo-"Mad Men" precursor to a meal served on retro dinnerware. Housemade charcuterie arrives on a midcentury-style wooden platter. A warm spinach, artichoke and goat cheese dip is a throwback blast to scoop up with warm chips.
Yellow-glazed plates that look like they came from Russell Wright’s studio hold a kale, cabbage, radicchio and sunflower seed salad — serious roughage to balance the steak. Happily, Guard grills a 4-ounce strip. Just the right size to save room for other dishes, it’s glossed in veal demi-glace and clarified butter. Wet-aged and juicy but with a mineral char, it’s a grown-up hunk of beef, though the curly noodles in the truffle mac ’n’ cheese take you back to childhood.
So, too, does dessert. The G&G Bar, a hazelnut-chocolate log covered with caramel gelée could come in a Willy Wonka wrapper. It’s brought by good-humored servers who oversee the meal like the coolest of parents. $130 plus drinks.
Guard and Grace
1801 California Street. Tel. (303) 293-8500
Even on a Monday night with the Broncos playing at home, Jennifer Jasinski’s flagship Mediterranean on Larimer Square is jumping. Cooks juggle pans in the exhibition kitchen. Servers hurry about, delivering bread — goat cheese–rosemary, lavender-sourdough, raisin-oat, onion — and chatting to customers about Spanish wines.
Let them talk you into something. The suggested 2003 Viña Tondonia White Reserva has the apple-snap finish of cider but with a richness that meets the robust food. Jasinski has a way with pastas — even ones that taste like Spain. Saffron capellini nests squid and prawns in a nage infused with Calabrian chiles. White truffle brodo is hard to upstage, but artichoke takes its best shot, coming braised, crisped and puréed inside tortelloni in that aromatic broth.
The kitchen parses cucumber, too. A salad of raw and pickled heirlooms, cucumber flower, fennel and apples sit in cucumber-green apple water, tasting like a bracing riff on gazpacho. As for big plates, Jasinski’s juicy free-range chicken drips with tarragon-brandy jus booming with caramelly, aniselike flavor.