The debut of the Denver Art Museum’s Daniel Libeskind-designed Frederic C. Hamilton Building has made coast-to-coast headlines and elevated Colorado in both the art and architecture realms. Art lovers rejoiced.
At the same time, foodies cheered the reopening of Palettes Contemporary Cuisine, Kevin Taylor’s restaurant in the museum, closed since 2004 while the Hamilton Building was going up.
Even as the museum’s exhibition space doubled, so has Palettes. The restaurant has nearly tripled in size and now seats 278. Cooks perform their magic in a relocated and redesigned open kitchen.
In the spare dining room, selected artworks hang on the white walls. The high open ceiling underscores the urban style. Simple table settings showcase the colors and textures assembled for each dish. Even the chairs by Mario Bellini provide a sit-upon design statement.
And the large windows, of course, provide oh-so-stunning views of the Hamilton Building, the sculpture plaza and the Museum Lofts, another Libeskind opus nearing completion.
Executive Chef Kevin Taylor is known for changing menus of contemporary American cuisine and especially for his artistic presentations. In fact, the menu will not only change seasonally but also will be influenced by special exhibitions at the museum. The combination of art on the walls and art on the plates comes naturally.
Taylor and chef-de-cuisine Dan Brown define contemporary American cuisine to include influences from the Mediterranean region and the American Southwest — and occasionally even central Europe.
During preview festivities before the official Palettes opening, the two-course teaser menu comprised a sparkling, multi-hued salad (lemongrass poached shrimp and melon salad with avocado, grapefruit, sesame crackers and spiced vanilla dressing) and a pale and soothing dessert (lemon ice box pie with toasted meringue, gingerbread cookies and blueberry compote). Neither of those exact dishes appears on the open menu, but similar ones do.
Some dishes, especially the starters, appear at both lunch and dinner. Whatever the season and whatever is going on at the museum, expect to see silky soups, clear broths, Colorado lamb, diver scallops, mussels, seared sushi-grade ahi tuna, risotto, pasta, mashed potatoes enhanced with some other flavor and divine desserts.
Appetizers, $8-$14. Lunch entrées and sandwiches, $10-$17. Dinner entrées, $16-$29. Three-course prix fixe, $25 at lunch, $42 at dinner.
The Denver Art Museum is known for its outstanding children’s programs, so it’s fitting that Palettes also offers a kids’ menu. In addition to predictable cheese dishes (mac and cheese, noodles with Parmesan and grilled cheese sandwiches), there are such kid-pleasers as chicken nuggets and burgers. Kids’ dishes, $5-$9.
If You Go
Palettes Contemporary Cuisine at the Denver Art Museum , 100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, Denver; 303-534-1455
Boulder-based Claire Walter is an award-winning writer specializing in travel, food and snowsports. She has written for countless magazines and newspapers, and is the author of Culinary Colorado, a food-oriented guidebook. Her blog-inspired “Dining Diary” (www.culinary-colorado.com/dining.htm) shares her ongoing culinary experiences with fans of the book.
From the Editors: We spent a heap of time making sure this story was accurate when it was published, but of course, things can change. Please confirm the details before setting out in our great Centennial State.