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My boyfriend and I dished out to be served up at Boulder’s intimate and quaint John’s restaurant during Denver Restaurant Week 2011.
John’s, along with sixteen other Boulder eateries and a whole slew of restaurants in Denver, offered multiple-course meals from a selected menu for the set (relatively reasonable) price of $52.80 for two people and $26.40 for one.
All this was a part of Denver Restaurant Week, which commenced February 26 and lasted two weeks, ending on March 11.
I have lived in Boulder my whole life, and I have heard my mother rave about how John’s restaurant is the best in town, although she probably hasn’t been there since before I was born. There certainly have been a number of new restaurants that have opened since then, but I seized the financial opportunity and gave John’s a try.
I do not recommend John’s to those on a budget (unless of course, they go during Restaurant Week), nor do I recommend it to anyone too impatient to make reservations far in advance. John’s does provide a comfortable setting for elevated food without the elevated attitude.
The atmosphere in John’s is posh, but not pretentious. Dim-lighting and small tables contribute to a romantic ambiance, but the close seating, house-like setting and easy-going vibe keep it communal. When I was there, guests at two tables began to converse as they eyed each others’ food and compared their impressions of it.
The portions were somewhat reduced due to the special menu, but there were three courses, and with the generous distribution of bread it was more than enough to fill us up. The bread itself was delicious—soft on the inside but with a crunchy crust and served warm.
I requested oil and vinegar with mine, and though I’m no balsamic connoisseur, I really appreciated John’s, which had been aged with cherry in oak to an almost syrupy thickness. The cherry flavor was prominent and sweet, reminiscent of a raspberry vinegar, but it did not lose its characteristic balsamic bite.
As an appetizer, I ordered the lamb strudel with brie. My boyfriend ordered the gnocchi verde, which they were out of, he was instead offered a substitute of three-cheese tortellini in the same Parmesan sauce. He was quite satisfied with his pasta appetizer, while my lamb fell a little short of my expectations.
I love lamb, but this, though braised for hours, tasted almost like beef. It also had an unexpected note of mole sauce, which was neither intended (I hope) nor appreciated. With the phyllo dough wrapper, I would have preferred the use of feta, taking the obvious Greek route. It could have been more appetizing with pastry instead of phyllo, which would make for a more Empanada-like strudel, which was what I had imagined upon ordering.
The second course was much more to my liking. I had a spinach salad with pancetta, goat cheese, walnuts and dried cherries. I couldn’t find the pancetta, maybe it was in the dressing or just tiny pieces, but its saltiness complemented the sweet-tart cherries and mild goat cheese well.
My boyfriend got the creme crecy soup, a puree of sweet carrots, onion, dill and cream, which he made disappear quite fast. I didn’t really taste any one of those flavors on their own but the balance was nice with a salty, rich aftertaste.
When the main course came, it was clear things were improving in accordance with the order that they were being served. My mushroom risotto, with cipollini onions, niçoise olives, and cave-aged gruyere was to die for. The rice was tender but not without texture, and the bite from the olives (surprisingly) fit right in. The cheese was creamy and rich, but not too heavy.
My boyfriend’s black angus ribeye, complemented by a poblano pepper and bleu cheese potato cake, was presented beautifully with two house-cut and fried potato chips on top. He was anticipating the potato cake, but said the ribeye itself was the best part, or the sauce. He couldn’t decide.
I look forward to visiting John’s again next year during Restaurant Week, when I’ve saved up another thirty bucks to dish out in the name of good food, and a greater variety of it than that much cash would usually get me.
Contact CU Independent Contributor Ana McIntosh at Ana.firstname.lastname@example.org.