5 New Things You Must Try at Central Bistro & Bar

By Ruth Tobias  |  March 26, 2014
Credit: Ruth Tobias

Some chefs command immediate respect; others earn lasting adoration. Matt Selby falls into both camps. A longtime ambassador of the Denver dining scene as Josh Wolkon’s colleague at Vesta Dipping Grill, Steuben’s and Ace Eat Serve, he surprised many a few months ago by popping up in the kitchen at contemporary LoHi hot spot Central Bistro & Bar. But from the first spoonful of a parsnip soup we tried the week he arrived, we could tell Selby, owner Isiah Salazar and his crew had something really special going. And a preview of their spring menu, launching officially on Friday, only confirmed it. Check out a few of our favorite creations - and get a sneak peek at other goodies Selby has in the works - in the slideshow.

1691 Central St.; 303-477-4582

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Littleneck Clams with Spring Vegetables in Rosé Brodo

    A tableside squeeze of grilled blood orange is like a vigorous handshake that caps off this "meeting of the seasons," as Selby calls it, bringing together littleneck clams and mussels, asparagus and English peas in a sprightly broth made with a "good patio rosé." Of course it's accompanied by a hunk of grilled bread for sopping up every last drop of spring warmth. 

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Lemonade-Cured Foie Gras

    "I gotta say it: this is my best foie dish to date," Selby enthuses of his lemonade-cured foie gras. "First we cure it with verjus, which adds both the acidity and sweetness of lemon; then we bury it in salt infused with lemon zest." After 12 to 15 hours, it's cut into the creamiest, most delicate of torchons set atop Grateful Bread sourdough: "Really what it is is grilled French toast dipped in melted custard batter." To "lead the way toward summer," it's accompanied by an ultra-refreshing salad of julienned mint, fennel and seared foie as well as a blueberry-rum jam. "I've always enjoyed cooking with booze," Selby laughs, "and so I like to consider what our bar manager James [Menkal] is doing with cocktails."

  • Seared Lamb with Fresh Chickpeas

    "I had nothing to do with this. It’s just awesome ingredients in a great season," Selby modestly says of his seared lamb loin over fresh chickpeas plus a warm salad of grilled ramps, mixed cresses and three types of olives. It's bathed in an almost-frothy Robiola fondue that highlights the earthiness of the meat and greens, though the chef envisions lightening the sauce even more come summer - "maybe a beer-cheese jus?"

  • Credit: Ruth Tobias

    Chocolate Cake with Caramel Corn 

    Caramel corn brings a touch of salty-sweet state-fair fun to this dense chocolate cake with crème fraîche icing, caramelized white-chocolate mousse and cocoa-nib crunch. But non-chocoholics (they do exist) will be jazzed to hear that Selby wants to "start throwing curveballs by featuring a seasonal-vegetable dessert." He's already tried a fennel cake with five-spice cream cheese and root beer-braised fennel; we say bring on the porcini and sweet peas.

  • The Casanova

    Meanwhile, Menkal's invigorating Casanova combines silver tequila with a serrano-chile tincture, lime, cilantro and a smoked-salt rim. It's one to sip slowly alongside the "bar snack of the day," be it sliders, tacos or the item Selby's most excited about: "Deep-fried chicken oysters! I serve them with financiers, sausage gravy and frisée in a whole-grain mustard dressing. It's something I've wanted to do for years."