A tiny new corner restaurant is poised to be the big hit this winter at Denver Union Station. Ultreia, a Spanish “gastroteka” by the owners of Stoic & Genuine, Bistro Vendome, Euclid Hall, and Rioja, opened Friday just off the transit station’s grand hall. It’s a 50-seat space with an oversized presence — one grand bar, a line of plush booths, and second-story mezzanine seating hovering over the open kitchen. Somewhere between the tiled stairs, corniced walls, and a 17th Century floor-to-ceiling landscape painting, travelers here are sure to be transported to the Iberian Peninsula and also to another, Baroque era.
Food created by chef-partners Jennifer Jasinski and Adam Branz mixes classic and modern Spanish and Portuguese. At the center of the menu and displayed right atop the bar is a whole, Iberian ham leg. Diners can order slices from this acorn-fed, top-shelf cured pork, along with two others in a jamón sampler. Other typical tapas include toasted pan con tomate (tomato paste), ham croquetas, and a Spanish shrimp tortilla or omelette. A couple of the tastiest dinner menu items are the cured trout served with orange-olive salad and potato chips, and melt-off-the-bone pork ribs rubbed in North African spices and Basque chilies.
A full gin tonic list should lure fans and skeptics of the spirit alike. Under the direction of partners Beth Gruitch and Jessica Richter, the bar menu focuses on gin cocktails, Spanish and Portuguese wines, and sherries. Seasonal drinks such as a Death’s Star made with star anise, cranberries, and Angostura bitters shake up the typical gin tonic. Also try the Washed Up Mermaid with Hendrick’s, Lillet Blanc, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Where those came from, bartenders at Ultreia are happy to create more riffs on the classic. Ultreia also offers a lunch menu, filled with Portuguese and Spanish sandwiches, or bocadillos. And throughout the day, find quick bites in the form of pintxos on toothpicks, from olives and anchovies to chorizo and chistorra sausages.
Status: Ultreia is now open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weekends. Check the website for menus and more information.