Beast + Bottle, one of the most anticipated openings of 2013, will officially open its doors tomorrow, Saturday March 16. The restaurant, owned by siblings Paul Reilly, the chef, and Aileen Reilly, the general manager, occupies the former Olivéa space at 719 E. 17th Avenue. Focused on rustic, comforting American craft cuisine with an emphasis on sustainability, Beast + Bottle aims to bring creativity and versatility into simple food.
The Reillys previously owned Encore, a restaurant located on Colfax in the former Lowenstein Theatre complex, until a rent increase dispute with the landlord made them change course and look for a new home. The change gave the siblings the opportunity to rethink the name and concept and that is how Beast + Bottle was born. The name refers to the restaurant's appreciation for the whole animal - an in-house butchery program is an integral part of this concept- and the wine program and philosophy of drinking wine exactly how you want, whether by the glass, carafe, or bottle.
The 1400 square foot space has been transformed. The cozy white and almond-accented space is lined with brown booths along the sidewall and banquettes along the back. A mirror strategically placed in the back gives more depth and energy to the room. The giant squiggles that separated the curved bar from the dining room have been removed and replaced with clean square white columns that bring structure, yet keep the floor plan open. The awkward dining tables that lined the window right by the kitchen were replaced with a counter-height six top, a natural extension of the bar used as community seating or for larger parties. The bar changed its shape sightly and useful and visually-appealing storage was added above it. With tastefully mismatched chairs and family photos displayed on the columns, the space feels like a welcoming home dining room.
Welcoming and comforting vibes extend to the menu, a one-pager that includes on the top half a Small Plates section, Flat Breads section, and a playfully-named Eat Your Vegetables selection. The small plates highlights include the celery-forward P.E.I. mussels, the peppery foie gras pastrami, and the rich fried crispy head cheese. Flat breads are universally appealing with the Fig & Pig being a signature dish. Springy English pea souffle is a must-try in the vegetable selection. The bottom of the page in dedicated to six main courses, each centered around a protein- animal, bird, or fish, all ethically and humanly raised. The braised lamb shoulder ragu pappardelle, a rich but well-balanced dish, and the delicate pan-roasted fluke stood out among the main courses. One note: don't skip dessert - the goat cheese semifreddo and the rhubard pie are sure winners.
The bar program has a clear focus on local beers and spirits. The beers include Great Divide, Oskar Blues, Steamworks, and City Star, while the spirits highlight, among others, Leopold Bros. and Breckenridge Distillery. The meticulously curated wine program, led by Aileen Reilly who's first love remains wine, is centered around varietals that enhance the flavor of the food and serve as great pairings.
The kitchen team that the Reillys have gathered includes chef de cuisine Wade Kirwan, who previously served as executive chef at Adrift and sous chef James Rugile, who has cooked at Bones, Mizuna, and the now-closed Venue Bistro. The bar will be ably manned by Dean Copeland, former bar manager at Encore, while the Janelle Schmidt, a recent Denver transplant, will serve as assistant manager to Aileen Reilly.
Beast + Bottle will serve dinner Tuesday through Sunday beginning at 4:30 p.m. and will start serving brunch on the same days from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Between brunch and dinner, the bar will stay open and snacks will be available for guests.