Monday, September 5, 2011

Row 14

Row 14 has only been open for a few short months, and has already become a sufficiently big deal that my husband and I dragged ourselves up there on a Tuesday night for a fancy dinner with some wonderful friends.

The restaurant is located in downtown Denver at 14th and Champa just next to the convention center. We valeted our vehicle for $8 and headed inside.

Row 14 describes itself as "sophisticated yet approachable" on their website, which I suppose accurately sums up the swanky interior filled with nicely dressed happy hour business types.

The four of us were seated at a large table next to floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out onto their patio seating and 14th Street.

After getting situated and ordering a round of drinks, we proceeded to order literally almost half the menu. We were fortunate that our friends included Ms. Sizzling Cupcake; we finally had a dining companion who understood our annoying habit of photographing everything we ate.

We shared five different starters, many of which seemed designed for our four-person party.

First off were the Row 14 Sliders ($10), which came with bacon, garlic aioli, and togarashi parmesan fries.

Row 14 Sliders

Fantastic. I loved the rich bacon slice on my slider, and the fries were wonderfully spiced.

Next were the Ahi & Salmon Rangoons ($6):

Ahi & Salmon Rangoons. After we ate the first 3. The original presentation was
much more beautiful and I'm sorry we destroyed it before snapping a picture.

Well, we really screwed up the food blogging thing right out of the gate by inhaling three of the four rangoons before remembering we needed a picture. But they were perfect. Each one was generously stuffed with a mixture of tuna, salmon, and cream cheese.

Row 14 seems to have an unusual fascination with duck confit, so I decided to try the Duck Confit Pancakes ($8):

Duck Confit Pancakes

Let's get one thing straight: these are not pancakes. They are crackers topped with duck confit and cabbage. Despite the misnomer, I loved every bite. The confit was balanced by the crisp cracker base and fresh cabbage slaw.

Next was Ahi Tartare ($10):

Ahi Tartare

The tuna was fresh, high quality and perfectly seasoned. However, I wish it had been accompanied with a more interesting scooping food; the wonton chips were boring and greasy and bland.

And the Sweet Corn Soup ($7):

Sweet Corn Soup

This was our least favorite of the many starters. The soup had a wonderful sweet corn flavor, but it was way too watery and thin. One redeeming factor was that the soup came with crispy duck cracklings that we all loved.

As if that wasn't enough food, we ordered the following entrees:

Wild Florida Ono ($24):

Wild Florida Ono
This came with, quoting from the menu: black beans, olathe corn, avocado, pickled papaya, espelette chile oil.  All of the Row 14 entrees were outstanding, and this was no exception. The Ono was perfectly cooked and complimented by the accompanying flavors.

I didn't try the following entrees, but some very reliable sources told me they were fantastic:

Alamosa Striped Bass

Wagyu Flank Steak Frites

And for dessert:


Strawberry Cream Cheese Gyoza:
Strawberry Cream Cheese Gyoza

I consider myself pretty easy to please when it comes to desserts, but I didn't care for either of these. The Strawberry Cream Cheese Gyoza was definitely the better of the two, containing wonton-type wrappers filled with a rich strawberry cream cheese filling. Everyone at the table enjoyed the dessert, except me, because my wonton was apparently filled with far less filling than everyone else's, and I mostly just tasted the wonton wrapper.

And the tiramisu was just disappointing. It had a bottom layer of cake-like stuff which maybe was supposed to be equivalent to ladyfingers, topped by a thick "cream" layer. The cream was almost like ice cream but with a very icy texture, and had a very strong coffee flavor. The dessert wasn't what I was expecting, and it certainly wasn't a traditional tiramisu.

We loved the atmosphere at Row 14 and the service was very good. The entrees were outstanding, the small plates were decent, and the desserts...have some room for improvement (at least the two we tried). Worth a second visit.

Casual Dining

(7 of 10)

Pros: Great decor, seating and atmosphere. Outstanding entree plates.
Cons: Didn't care for either of the desserts we had. Typical downtown parking headaches.


Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon


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