The Nickel

Restaurant in Denver

Modern Rocky Mountain Comfort Restaurant

Echoing the dramatic dimensions and nostalgic Deco décor of the Hotel Teatro that houses it, the Nickel rounds out the Lower Downtown experience with a menu as solid and shiny as…well, you can guess the rest.

One of those few establishments that do as well by their cocktails as their food, the Nickel stays busy from its earliest hours with a bar crowd that comes for their housemade charcuterie and reverently classic cocktails served over bespoke ice cubes. Those not used to Denver’s altitude would do well to a book a room at the hotel – the barrel-aged Manhattan, which has the smoky savor of a gentleman’s study and the heady sweetness of sugared-over jam, will leave even heavyweights a little tipsy. Lightweights should steer toward the French 75: a bright, tart mix of gin and Prosecco spiked with lemon juice.

Charcuterie is ordered sushi-style: simply pencil in your choices from the paper menu, and a board appears with homemade crostini and smears of condiments. The Humboldt Fog – a cloudy, sweet bleu cheese – paired wonderfully with La Quercia prosciutto and mustard seed, while the Calabrian soppressata was delicious alongside a funky Savarin and honeycomb culled from bees that the restaurant keeps on the roof.

Kabocha squash soup swirled with maple crème fraiche and studded with pumpkin seed streusel offered a candy-sweet top note over a rich, unctuous base. The grilled octopus had a campfire heartiness that paired wonderfully with roasted baby potatoes, Casel Ventrano olives and shaved celery.  A similar campfire flavor infused the cherrywood-grilled scallops embedded alongside toasted cauliflower in a raisin-caper emulsion, whose caramelly flavor was heightened by the saltiness of black butter sable.

Veal sweetbreads paired with bacon lardons enriched a tangle of frisee topped with poached egg, in a mixture of highbrow and low. Beef culotte popped with briny fines herbes butter, shisito peppers and woody wild mushrooms. The salmon with butterscotch miso and celery root puree was by far the most inventive dish of the evening: an unctuous mix of ferment, sweet and bitter flavors.

If possible, end your meal with the chocolate budino, a dark, dense bittersweet pudding housed in a canning jar, dusted with smoked sea salt and eaten by scooping it out with coin-sized sugar cookies. But if the Nickel’s seasonal menu has replaced it with something else, trust your meal’s finish to the conspiracy of Chef Chris Thompson and the Nickel’s white-coated bartenders. You won’t be disappointed.

Chelsea Batten is an itinerant journalist and photographer

Photographs courtesy of The Nickel

Reviewer's Rating
Cuisine American
Need to book Not necessary
Clientele Stylish locals (slanted toward the 30-something crowd), hotel and theatre guests
Restaurant good for Couples, Bar scene, Small groups, Large groups, Doing business, Outdoor seating
Cost per head Medium
Dress Code Smart Casual
Dining Options Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

Additional Ambience Information

Modern rustic meets Deco elegance.

Last updated on 08-11-2014

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