The 7-year-old seafood restaurant of noted maître d'hôtel Joseph Freyre is a deep pool with lots of room for exploration, especially given its new space. In moving across Eighth Street, Joseph's left behind heavy drapes for an updated look that reminds me of Marigold Café: warm colors mixed with decorative accents that offer the right amount of luxurious living-room. Long cream drapes frame large windows, while shiny poinsettia confetti, candles and colorful napkins stand out against the white tablecloths. A new patio, with its steel mountain art and mandatory fire pit, is all set for summer.
It's comfortable and well-designed and, at lunch, mostly full of elderly women driving the same Lexus SUV. I counted three in the parking lot, not to mention a host of other luxury cars fresh from Motor City. Inside, bottles of wine start at $16, but go as high as $250. Dinner for two can push past a hundred bucks pretty quick.
Generally, our service didn't stand up to the pricing, which is surprising considering Freyre's background as the backbone of the Broadmoor's Penrose Room restaurant. Though laying napkins in laps is a nice touch, service was too casual at dinner, where our waiter puttered over and never introduced himself or showed much concern, causing the owner to step in at times. At one point, that server grabbed additional silverware off an adjoining table, a faux pas at the fine-dining level. And it was nice that our to-go food was boxed for us, but the meal closed with our credit card slip and an absent-minded, "All right, then." We got a warmer parting from the bartender.
There's lots of food, drink and wine, including a separate bar menu that includes a dozen oysters on the half-shell for $21 and cotija-stuffed jumbo prawns. Considering recent local advances in the craft, the cocktail menu is pretty staid, though, offering Lemon Drops and Cosmopolitans. An Old Fashioned ($10) reflected the awful post-Prohibition style, soda water with muddled oranges and neon maraschino cherries obliterating any subtlety or enjoyment.
There's plenty of both in the Atlantic salmon ($25), an intriguing, cream-laden dish gorgeously plated with a latticework cracker, a fan of skinny carrots and asparagus, and a whole, fried leaf of basil. Sweet and tangy green apples played off horseradish in an almost-boozy sauce that was hard to forget about and harder to stop eating. Not so with the intense calf's liver ($25), which, through no fault of anyone, proves expensive liver is as sharp and polarizing as cheap liver.
The Scallops Pernod Salad ($15) is a compelling classic, where rich bacon bites bed down over spinach greens, brown sugar and a pool of the Pernod, its anise flavors balanced perfectly against the bitter spinach and everything else. Rounds of plump, seared jumbo scallops gild the lily. Pair it with a cup of Maine lobster bisque ($8), a clean-tasting bowl of orange decadence, or a fine Caesar salad ($9) that I mostly ordered hoping for anchovies. Alas.
A lamb sandwich on a hoagie roll ($13) is basically a deliciously tender Colorado Philly, but major fun came from the escargot en croute ($11.99). The entire welled plate was covered in a luxurious, golden pastry shell — a play on eating the plump garlic bombs from their own natural homes, and tons of fun, like digging for clams. Save your bread to dunk in the buttery leftovers, because some things are too good to waste.