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Templeton’s contrasts a classic steakhouse and fondue with a twist

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Colorado lamb comes nearly fork-tender, with a delightful cranberry-marsala sauce. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Colorado lamb comes nearly fork-tender, with a delightful cranberry-marsala sauce.
In the American culinary landscape, certain institutions get canonized and treated with reverence. To wit: classical French cuisine, the fast food-style cheeseburger and the great American steakhouse as a pillar of fine dining. No matter how a chef engages with these structures and others like them, they’re dealing with a titan, and standing out means either fighting that titan with a no-holds-barred heterodox approach — see David Chang’s Momofuku empire — or by orthodoxically following in that titan’s footsteps and executing tradition as perfectly as possible.

Templeton’s, the new Old Colorado City spot (in the former 2South) owned by Dat’s Italian owners Dennis and JoAnn Trujillo, attempts to wrestle with two restaurant concepts that have been either canonized or calcified, depending on perspective. Upstairs, it’s a fairly traditional steak and seafood spot, while downstairs, they serve fondue.

But Templeton’s does their four-course fondue dinners a little different than most. Dennis hates boiling or frying meats, so he and former chef Andrew Barkas, formerly of N3 Taphouse, cribbed notes from Korean barbecue. While the cheese and chocolate courses arrive atop a double boiler setup, as one might expect, they serve entrées with a round cast-iron griddle, allowing guests to cook their meats and veggies dry. Each table holds an induction burner, so things heat up quickly enough, and there’s a temperature control for diners who feel confident enough to sear their entrées hotter and faster.

For fondue, Templeton’s charges per head, with prices ranging from $42 to $52. Each diner chooses their own salad and entrée, and the table splits a cheese course and a chocolate course, with dipping bites portioned by party size. We start with the Valhalla cheese course, a mixture of Swiss and havarti cheeses with kirsch, a German cherry brandy. It’s served with bread cubes and sliced raw fruits and veggies: apples, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and zucchini. My dining companion and I prefer cooked mushrooms to raw, but the slight booziness of the kirsch goes well with the cheeses, all the tastier on a piece of apple or bread.

We enjoy the house salad and Caesar both, though the CDC advisory means we get a mix of baby spinach, kale and arugula rather than menu-listed mixed greens or straight romaine — chef Terry Shampoe, formerly of The Antlers and Great Wolf Lodge, personally confirms that’s okay with us and makes sure we’ve enjoyed it after the fact, barely necessary with our server’s swift attentiveness, but appreciated all the same.
Location Details Templeton’s
2 S. 25th St.
Downtown
Colorado Springs, CO
635-0261
Gourmet/eclectic
Come entrée course, we get the veggie lovers and voodoo fondue combos. What’s on the plate and what’s on the menu don’t match for the former — we get listed portabella mushroom and eggplant, but we’re served broccoli, sweet potato and asparagus instead of zucchini and bell pepper. No great crime, but at this price point, we expect consistency or clarification. Still, the voodoo fondue’s andouille slices delight, and it’s neat to see crawfish tail on a fondue menu. Blackened catfish wants more seasoning, though it cooks fine, ditto for Cajun chicken. Both those and half the veggies demonstrate why Korean barbecue meats often come sliced paper-thin — there’s wait time aplenty as everything cooks. A cozy on the skillet’s hot handle wouldn’t hurt either.

Six side sauces all show well, but Dijon aioli and ponzu stand out as particular winners, good with basically everything. Rich bordelaise sauce would pair better with beef than our picks.

The chocolate course allows us to pair Ghirardelli chocolates and a Torani syrup, so we opt for dark chocolate and raspberry, adding Chambord for $3 more. It’s a classic flavor combo, and bits of pretzel and waffle hold it well, along with strawberries, bananas and marshmallows. We’ve spent $18 on a three-wine pairing for the cheese, entrée and dessert, not a bad price for essentially a glass and a half of wine, and while our server doesn’t show deep knowledge of the wines, they’re all fine palate cleansers. All told, the filling meal lasts nearly three hours, something well worth knowing before committing.

Then again, not everyone’s crazy on paying over $40 a head before tax and tip to do their own cooking. Said folks can enjoy Templeton’s upstairs offerings: the fairly traditional steak and seafood menu, with big protein portions and sides aplenty. Entrées start at $28 and breach $50, in the case of a 16-ounce bone-in porterhouse steak. Most sides run $8 and appetizers $12. As with downstairs, it’s easy for dinner for two to hit three digits.

Like downstairs, we get quick and attentive service throughout the meal, though I’m recognized as a reviewer by operating manager Maia Conkey, who’s hostessing that night. She informs us that Templeton’s gets all of their proteins from as close to Colorado as possible, with everything cut by Springs butcher shop The Prime Cut.
French chefs put a staggering amount of butter into their dishes, like mussels a la Normande, and if there’s some higher power in this world, they will be rewarded richly and generously for their deeds. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • French chefs put a staggering amount of butter into their dishes, like mussels a la Normande, and if there’s some higher power in this world, they will be rewarded richly and generously for their deeds.
Cocktails run $10 and under. Our Love and Happiness resembles a mellow, faintly chocolaty negroni in all ways meaningful, using Salida-made Wood’s Distillery Treeline gin and Campari-like Meletti 1870 Aperitivo. We get extra forks for our mussels a la Normande appetizer, a bowl of buttery white wine cream sauce full of bacon, sausage, apples, celery and a dozen or so mussels. French culinarians are very good at putting a staggering amount of butter into one’s body, and if there’s some higher power in this world, they will be rewarded richly and generously for their deeds. We’re glad for bread and ask for more to sop up the sauce.

Sides come plentiful, as hoped. Fingerling potatoes land perfectly tender, roasted in duck fat and tossed with herbs de Provence, though most of their seasoning winds up in the pool of fat at the bottom of the dish (nothing a little fork work won’t fix). Brussels sprouts arrive chopped and sautéed with plentiful commingled Parmesan, a delicious interplay of bitter and salty-savory, with subtle lemon zest and pine nuts for texture.

We hit a snag with our roasted half-rack of lamb: Two of the four chops we’re served come not at promised medium but deep into rare territory. Still, Conkey and the kitchen handle the snafu quickly and efficiently, serving us each an amuse-bouche taster of their lovely avocado tuna tartare as an apology for the wait on two perfect pink replacement chops, even offering to knock the $40 entrée off of our check for the trouble, which we decline. The lamb delights, nearly fork-tender and meaty, crusted in garlic and perfumed by rosemary as backing elements, served atop a chunky cranberry-marsala sauce with roasted asparagus. It’s protein aplenty for two, which makes the price point a little sweeter.

In Templeton’s, we see an interesting contrast of iconoclasm and tradition, but for our dollar, one stands out stronger than the other. Upstairs Templeton’s fits the spot’s cozy, intimate atmosphere better — even the soundtrack, rich piano covers of crooner standards and Disney tracks. Good things, done well, stay good, and that’s where we find Templeton’s happy place.

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