What to Eat at twelve Before It Closes

By Ruth Tobias  |  August 15, 2014
Credit: Christopher Cina

When the news broke on August 6 that Jeff Osaka would be closing twelve on August 23, the outcry was one of not only sadness but disbelief. After all, the groundbreaking eatery has been a Ballpark dining anchor, garnering the chef-owner his first James Beard Award nomination earlier this year. So “why close when business is good?” Osaka asks rhetorically. “This was my starter restaurant, but I’ve outgrown the space, and I’m going to have a lot going on pretty soon with Osaka Ramen. So I’d rather go out on my terms — on a high rather than waiting to jump the shark.”

Plans to reopen in a larger venue aren’t concrete yet, though he envisions a destination with a similar style of food, if not the monthly changing menu for which his debut was named. In the meantime, Osaka admits he’s in a “bittersweet” mood. “This is the place I’ve called home for almost six years. The news is bringing back a lot of regulars who’ve come almost every month to see the menu change, and customers I haven’t seen in a long time — a couple came in here yesterday with their eight-month-old baby. There’s big support here.” (And Osaka is one to repay such loyalty. For instance, he’s currently helping his sous-chef and 30 Under 30 honoree Spencer Caine find a new home.)

You’ve got just over a week before the closure to show your own support and sample the final menu, which Osaka calls “business as usual — we try to treat everything as special anyway.” Here are four dishes that, in his view, serve as “a good representation of what we do.”

1) Tuna tartare wth cured egg yolk, rice crisps, cucumber and Fresno pepper

"Believe it or not, we’ve never done tuna tartare, simply because everybody has it," Osaka observes. "But the kitchen really wanted to, so I said, 'Why not?'"

2) Baby beets with bone-marrow croutons and radish in a cucumber vinaigrette

Osaka's penchant for using meat as an accent rather than the centerpiece is on display here — as is his knack for artful presentation.

3) Mushroom agnolotti with baby summer squash and fried ricotta-and-herb-stuffed squash blossoms

We've always gravitated toward twelve's vegetarian entrees for their creative exuberance, and this one's no exception.

4) Vanilla pain perdu with Palisade peaches, honeycomb and fromage blanc ice cream

"The peaches this year are fantastic," Osaka promises. 

2233 Larimer St.; 303-293-0287. All photos by Christopher Cina.