The anticipation is over. Today — permits in hand and soft openings out of the way— the Populist, a new restaurant in the hot RiNo neighborhood, opens its doors to the public.
Eater walked the walk and ate the grub pre-opening, so here is the scoop. The dishes crafted by chef Jonathan Power are exciting and certainly don't lack a sense of adventure. The smoked trout rillettes and the beef cheeks with porcini potato smashers, seared frisee and tamarind reduction were instant favorites, while the Huitacoche ricotta agnolotti, creative but too doughy and cold, and the undersalted bar mix appetizer seemed to remain a work in progress. A fall-appropriate must-have dish was the curried chickpea salad.
On to the atmosphere: the Populist seems perfect for a date night — dimly lit, intimate, sexy, almost film noir-esque without smoke, with conversation flowing easily, not bogged down with noise and with servers that are attentive, but not intrusive. The narrow communal tables are comfortable and to seem bring guests closer together both physically and otherwise. The volume is soft but the music is trendy and the décor recycled, urban-chic, expected in many ways from the team behind the popular Crema Coffeehouse. One highlight for a properly reused material: old lockers to form a wall and wine storage.
There is talk of chef's tasting menus being available every night for $80 per couple. Vegetarian options will always be available, Eater was told, and the a la carte menu will be available every night. The Populist is a dinner only restaurant open Tuesday through Saturday beginning at 5 p.m. No reservations.