Times are changing on 16th Street, where, by the end of the year, a pair of decades-old neighborhood restaurants had closed and a pan-European destination opened up, looking more Parisian jewel box than Denver’s downtown Mall.
Sumptuous LeRoux is the latest release from chef Lon Symensma and business partner Christopher Davis-Massey. It’s located around the corner (in the same SugarCube Building) from their original, pan-Asian hit ChoLon. And it has completely transformed a former World of Beer location — H Burger before that — into a date-night bar and dining room.
“Our goal was to drop you in a place where you really did feel like you’re in France or Italy,” Davis-Massey said, explaining how LeRoux, with its Old World touches, is the more feminine counterpart to ChoLon, which mashes New York with Saigon. At the newer restaurant, crystal chandeliers hang from the ceilings, taper candles top the tables, and framed menus and awards line the walls.
Symensma sees the space as a compilation, “a tribute to my early years of cooking” at Michelin-starred kitchens in Spain, France, and Italy, and under the tutelage of French chefs in the U.S. The restaurant’s namesake, one of Symensma’s mentors from the Culinary Institute of America, is Xavier Le Roux.
Last week, and fresh off a plane from the East Coast, the elder chef walked this newly finished dining room, looking over the menu with his former student, who pointed out classics he had once learned like grilled lamb chops and lobster meunière and also his own updates and touches — spaghetti squash tarte Tatin, mushroom mille-feuille.
Symensma said he and executive chef Jeff Stoneking are starting small in scope; their menu fits on one page and divides into “gourmandise” (foie gras, mousse, tartare), seasonal vegetables, meats, and fish from mussels to octopus. Cheeses, soon to come displayed on a stationary cart, can be selected near the beginning or end of the meal.
“The main thing is to do it right,” Le Roux said, appearing pleased, before imparting one last lesson to the group: the French word soigné, which translates directly to “taken care of” but also signifies elegance and extravagance. It seemed to fit the space. Symensma said he had heard the word many times before in school, and at this, he was grinning from ear to ear.
Status: LeRoux is now open at 1555 Blake Street, Suite 102, starting at 5 p.m. daily for dinner. Lunch service begins January 7 and brunch will start in February.
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