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First Look: Que Bueno Suerte!

The sexy Mexican cantina opens on Old South Pearl
December 7, 2016
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by Ruth Tobias

The gist: Two words — ¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! On December 11, Que Bueno Suerte! opens its doors on Platt Park’s Old South Pearl as the much-anticipated successor to Session Kitchen. The upscale alter ego of fast-casual airport outlet Que Bueno! Mexican Grille takes its name from the Spanish phrase qué buena suerte, essentially “what good luck." Not that it needs much of that. Given the prodigious talent and experience of the team, above all consulting chef Dana Rodriguez (the Beard-nominated phenom behind Work & Class) and executive chef Vicente Sosa (Rodriguez’s longtime right-hand man and life partner), it already has the makings of a smash hit.

The vibe: Though Session Kitchen was stunning, its gray tones and minimalist layout never felt particularly welcoming. Now the two-story space is filled with all the color and sparkle it once lacked. Framed by rich ruby and golden hues, the Mayan-inspired artwork comes courtesy of the now-closed Westminster branch of Que Bueno!, making for a warm contrast to the sculptural LED chandeliers Session left behind.

The booze: Naturally, agave spirits take center stage at the bar, but there’s more to Anthony Giovanni’s offerings than loads of premium tequila and mezcal. Umbrella garnish and all, the piña colada with housemade coconut cream provides a luxuriant tropical escape amid the first snows of the year, as does a fine pisco sour. Spanish wines and beers with a Latin lilt, such as Avery’s El Gose and 5 Rabbit Oaxacan dark ale, round out the list.

The food: Rodriguez and Sosa’s blend of soul and sophistication drives the menu, from appetizers like roasted bone marrow with serrano-tomatillo jam and tortillas made in-house, to entrees both elegant (confit duck leg in mole with mezcal-infused rice) and down-home (fried-catfish tacos), as well as sides like grilled cactus salad in lemon vinaigrette. For more, check out the slideshow below.

Initially open for dinner only, Que Bueno Suerte! will add brunch in the weeks to come.

1518 S. Pearl St.; 720-642-7322

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The dramatic first-floor setup. There's also seating and a full bar on the mezzanine. 

Tender, garlicky grilled octopus in huitlacoche sauce with grapefruit-fennel salad 

Giovanni's pisco sour and a classic margarita 

Grilled shishito peppers and watercress add sharp green accents to a palm heart–and-grapefruit salad sprinkled with spiced pumpkin seeds.

Braised in mezcal and bathed in charred-onion broth thickened with puréed white beans, this luscious hunk of pork belly gains contrast from a hit of smoky salsa. 

The downstairs dining room suggests a sort of Day-Glo hacienda.

According to Rodriguez, banana leaves rather than corn husks make all the difference between the grainy, dense texture of many tamales and the supple, almost pastalike quality of Sosa's Yucatán-style version. This one is stuffed with achiote-roasted chicken in habanero sofrito.

Perhaps our favorite dish so far, this mahogany-skinned roast pheasant shines atop epazote–black bean purée speckled with achiote-tinged pan juice.

Like the amp that goes to 11, this tres leches cake is actually made with four milks (including coconut). 

The bar as seen from the dining room 

tequila
margaritas
mexican food
old south pearl
platt park
dana rodriguez