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Where to Eat Now: The New(ish) Café Marmotte

From Telluride with amour

Chef Mark

Chef Mark (Photo by Café Marmotte)

This past September, husband-and-wife team Mark Regiannini and Mairen Reagan quietly opened Café Marmotte in Washington Park as the sister restaurant to La Marmotte in Telluride. If you live in the neighborhood, you may already count yourself among the new restaurant’s loyal local following. And if you don’t, you may want to add the small bistro to your list of special occasion spots to visit in the city. Here’s what you need to know about Café Marmotte {290 South Downing Street, Denver; 303.999.0395}:

Cafe Marmotte

Photo by Café Marmotte

The matchbox vibe

First of all, any restaurant that names itself after one of the large buck-toothed squirrels that calls both the Alps and the Rockies home is bound to have an eccentric vibe—and this Café delivers. Front of House Manager Rachel McQueeney describes the space as a jewel box, but we feel a matchbox makes for a more fitting description. Like the increasingly cool designs of branded restaurant matchboxes, the Café flaunts its funk with an orange-black color scheme, framed charcoal drawings of Christopher Walken and other icons, and bold Bohemian paintings with Eastern influences such as a woman in an Arabian outfit with a tambourine. A warmth glows within the one-room space, alight with flowers, candles at the tables, and an intimacy that comes with modest size.

The French fare with a Bohemian edge

Like the interior, Executive Chef/Co-Owner Mark Regiannini’s menu offers French classics laced with free-spirited touches, such as prosciutto deviled eggs. Café Marmotte’s dishes are predominantly indulgent in the French tradition, making this an ideal spot for special occasions, and perfect for winter. Even the lighter options come with their rewards—a goat cheese pistachio pesto with the Roasted Carrots and Brussels Sprouts; walnut oil dotting the Roasted Tomatillo-Butternut Squash Soup; crispy goat cheese wontons sweetening the Red and Gold Beet Salad deal; and veloute with the Maine Lobster.

Cod

Tasting portion of the Cod with Gulf shrimp

The entrées are masterpieces in that they honor the culinary traditions of the dishes yet also manage to get away with snappy, seasonal additions. A curry sauce made with sage and purée from local pumpkins adds depth to the Shrimp Crusted East Coast Cod with grilled asparagus and tri-colored potatoes.

Coq Au Vin

Coq Au Vin (Photo by Jen Olson)

The Coq Au Vin—the restaurant’s flagship dish—features chicken braised in Burgundy for hours until it shreds at the slightest provocation. Tender and acidic melted red cabbage echoes the wine used to cook the bird, while bacon mashed potatoes and pearl onions add smoky, aromatic counterpoints.

beef cheeks

Tasting portion of Beef Cheeks

The honor of standout menu dish goes to the Braised Colorado Beef Cheeks. The crowning pesto melts into this tender cut, merging into one flavorful bite that dissolves as quickly as a purée on the tongue. A buttery mushroom polenta and cauliflower gratin make this a feast of rich bites with diverse textures.

In light of all the richness, it may be hard to reserve room for dessert, but if you can, rally and sample one of the housemade ice creams or sorbets—perhaps alongside the Beignets or a glass of Champagne.

And stay tuned for brunch—the restaurant says it’s coming soon.

To drink: French and co. wines

Cocktail

A cocktail line-up at Café Marmotte (Photo by Jen Olson)

Beverage Director/Co-Owner Mairen Regan offers a wine list made for pairing with the food. Exquisite selections come mostly from France, with a smattering of bottles from the states, including Colorado. Over 10 selections are offered by the glass, which means you can shake up your pick with each course. An unoaked Chardonnay goes perfectly with the seafood options. A feistier, berry-laced blend or Gamay can cut through the richness of dishes like the Beef Cheeks, and also echo the acidity in the Coq Au Vin, for example.

You’ll also find a small selection of brews, plus a savvy cocktail list including a lively Lavender Collins and Citrus and Herbs, a take on the gimlet with basil-infused vodka and a heavy dosage of lime juice.

The verdict on Café Marmotte

Café Marmotte already feels like one of those restaurants that’s claimed a Denver corner for decades, with no signs of flagging. As it has already demonstrated, the restaurant will engage its neighbors as a go-to weekend spot. But it will also become a classic, drawing guests from across the city in search of a humble yet authentic French experience for a special evening.

By Maya Silver | Editor