I was in Denver recently and dined alone one evening. I am no stranger to this when I travel for work, so I pulled out the smart phone map app to see what was walkable. Of course there are many places along the 16th Street Mall in Denver, all within walking distance, but I wanted to go someplace new. Lo and behold – just across the street from where I was staying I found one of my favorite kinds of places – a bistro and wine bar called Row Fourteen. Even better, my hotel had a card for a free 3 oz pour. Can’t complain about that! I grabbed a book and walked across the street to check it out. What a fantastic choice!
It was a Tuesday night and I was immediately shown to a table. When I saw the menu, it was clear I had made an excellent decision. Row Fourteen has a very intriguing, unique menu and I had a lot of trouble deciding. But thankfully my server, David, was extremely helpful. To begin, I had asked him to choose a wine for my free 3 oz pour. He brought me a 2010 Lamadrid “Single Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon (Agrelo, Argentina). When I asked about some of the appetizers I was thinking about, he confirmed that the XO Shrimp Foie Rangoons were a good choice. The total description included foie gras butter, cilantro, tobiko, and sweet chili soy. It was delicious, and the Cabernet paired well with it. I enjoyed every bite.
For the main, I decided on the Tender Belly Pork Loin with local bokchoy, oyster mushrooms, sorrel, and rhubarb butter (pictured). I ordered a 3 oz pour of the 2009 Stoller Vineyards Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills, Oregon), to pair with it. The pork was absolutely succulent. Flavorful. …Just yummy. There also were some thinly sliced radishes that added just a hint of bite. But I must say that my chosen pairing was not great. The Pinot Noir itself was very good. However, it actually overpowered the pork. I usually consider Pinot Noir to be the “wine for all food”, in that if there are several people at the table, all choosing a different entree (chicken, beef, fish…), but wanting to share a bottle of wine, Pinot Noir can often be the best choice. However, not this time. So instead I asked David for another suggestion, something with some more spice, perhaps. He recommended the 2007 Taltarni Vineyards Shiraz (Pyrenees Victoria, Australia), and – since the menu offers 3 or 6 oz pours of the wines they serve by the glass – I also ordered a 3 oz pour of a Malbec that he mentioned was new and not yet on the menu. The Malbec was a 2010 Don David Reserve (Calchaqui Valley, Argentina). This was the winner! This Malbec has some excellent spiciness to it and paired beautifully with the pork. The Shiraz also went well, but wasn’t quite as WOW as the Don David. Ah… What a wonderful dining experience. Not just the food, but the atmosphere and staff as well. I was very well taken care of, down to refilling my water glass. Nothing was overlooked. Except perhaps by me – alas, as I took one more look at the menu, I realized I had forgotten to ask about the Escargot Bruschetta. I decided that I would have to come back another night to try it.
I did just that on Thursday night. This time I came with a friend instead of a book. The main restaurant was fully booked until after 7:30, but there was room in the bar, where they also serve the full menu, so we pulled up some stools at a “community table” there. This evening, Travis was our server. He was fantastic. Again, very helpful, and very friendly. We ordered the Escargot Bruschetta with basil, fresh mozz, shiemji mushrooms, and aspen moon arugula pesto. This time I also had the Stoller Pinot Noir, and this was a much better pairing, earthy. I had not actually asked for it, but instead asked Travis to pick something for me that would go with the bruschetta. He did well! A bit later he had to go and recommend the Octopus Flatbread with pickled ramp, cauliflower, house raisins, and aleppo chile tomato sauce (pictured). He was able to twist our arms. I made him do the tough work again and asked him to bring me a red wine he thought would pair well with it. He did not disappoint. He brought me a 2009 Barbera d’Alba, Per Alessandra (Alba, Italy), and it was excellent. The wine, and the pairing. I would have enjoyed just a little more octopus on the flatbread, but it was indeed very good…
So, if you’re in downtown Denver and looking for a dining adventure, I strongly recommend Row Fourteen Bistro & Wine Bar. The owner is David Schneider, who is also very friendly and takes a personal interest in the customers. So, I just want to say thank you to David Schneider for opening Row Fourteen and having such an interesting menu, and thank you to David and Travis for taking such good care of me and my friend. I did not meet the chef(s), but big kudos to the cooking staff, as well as the rest of the staff who contributed to my dining experience. I look forward to dining with you again! Cheers!