Until now, Denver’s French food scene has largely stuck to traditional restaurant definitions — brasseries and bistros, cafés and creperies. But with the opening this Thursday of Morin inside the former Wazee Supper Club, those old delineations are blurred as a next-generation French restaurant steps forward in this historic part of the city.
On the one hand, Morin is a fine-dining destination, serving four- and seven-course tasting menus as well as plates like lamb tartare or bordelaise-topped wagyu ribeye (for two for $80). On the other hand, it’s a natural wine bar with well-priced hors d’oeuvres like beef marrow custard ($7), a sandwich of veal sweetbreads, and oyster mousse inside French pastry ($1.75).
If at first glance this all looks a little challenging, it is. But the teams behind restaurants Bar Dough, Señor Bear, and Tap & Burger have put together a passion project of a restaurant that’s attempting to balance comfort with progress.
“It’s not a brasserie, it’s not a bouchon, and it’s not a bistro” said co-owner and chef Max MacKissock of Morin. “But if you look at food in France right now, it’s not just the classics.” For the last seven or so years in Paris, a food movement termed “bistronomy” has been afoot, challenging old notions of French food, of fine dining, and of Michelin service.
In that time, MacKissock and his wife, Denver chef Jennifer Jasinski, have visited and revisited the City of Lights, touring modern French restaurants that combine casual environs with both classic cooking techniques and international influences. Now, Morin doesn’t exactly follow that prescription either.
It will fit for both a big date night or a high-level happy hour, and the restaurant has been redesigned to include modern nods to France interspersed with exposed brick, an original dumbwaiter, and stained glass windows. A second-level mezzanine lounge is lined with MacKissock’s family photos (his mother’s side is French). And the whole feel should come off classy with a casual touch, according to co-chef Blake Edmunds.
For diners who are both excited and unsure where to begin with Morin, though, the early evening bar perch might be a good place to start here. It involves full tea and martini services, those appealingly priced hors d’oeuvres, fresh-shucked oysters, glasses of natural wine, and bubbly non-alcoholic beverages worthy of a dry happy hour.
Drinks come courtesy McLain Hedges and Mary Allison Wright of The Proper Pour and RiNo Yacht Club. Together with MacKissock’s and Edmunds’ dishes, they should “break down the barrier of French food and wine,” Hedges said. MacKissock put the experience another way: “You can choose your own adventure.”
Status: Morin opens from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday at 15th and Wazee streets. Dinner hours will extend to 11 p.m. weekends. For more information and reservations, visit the website.