Thursday, April 8, 2010
Vert in Denver - Wash Park Neighborhood gets a great sandwich shop
Went to Vert today in Wash Park. Vert is, of course, french for Green and when you put a French name on your restaurant, I am going to judge it a little more closely. French cooking is about technique as much as it is about ingredients, it includes presentation and is about complementing flavors. I usually give places a pass on some of these things, but when you are French you are getting the press, if you know what I mean.
Vert delivers, a great space in a great neighborhood helps. Across from an elementary school and far enough west of Logan to get a true small neighborhood feel. When you walk in, there is a smattering of small tables, high-top bar tables and seats along the wall. There is more seating in the back but it seems to me to be a place that will always be full.
To start we had the white bean and spinach soup. Good beginning, not over seasoned, beans were cooked well, some simple onions, baby carrots and chiffonade of spinach passed the test. A toasted french crouton elevated the presentation. French, good, now I can relax.
I tried the braised pork shoulder. Super soft and creamy in what was described as a BBQ sauce, but I don't think that description is quite right. This sauce was sweeter, tomato and herb based. Complemented by an Aioli, a little cabbage and lettuce this was a good and filling sandwich. My biggest surprise was the roll, a very thin, very crunchy outside with a soft center. At first it looked to be one of those heavy rolls that often overpower the ingredients and make some sandwiches hard to eat, not here. Again, what I look for is that all of the flavors work together and here nothing stood out, I experienced the softness of the roll, chewiness of the meat and crunch of the veggies. This is good, how it is supposed to be when you have a french name.
My companion had the curried chicken sandwich. This is a bold choice and I see a lot of people try to do curried chicken salad and fail miserably because of too much or too little curry and no sweetness to balance the spicy taste. Here, ripe green apples added a great touch and sweetness to balance the herbs and curry. I will say on this particular day the Tarragon stole the show. Part of a fresh herb mixture dressing the sandwich, little else came through. It is hard working with fresh herbs coming out of winter into spring as their tastes become intensified and you have to adjust the amounts of each to get that right balance - I say taste your food, something all chefs forget to do from time to time. Again, very impressed with the bread, nice light crunch on the crust with a soft and creamy center.
Both of our dishes were dressed with some potato salad. I expected the traditional quenelle but got more of an artisanal smear. Still, all-in-all a great presentation and great meal, I will go back. Great to see they are emphasizing good ingredients and good technique, two things that will never go out of style.
Author's note: Well done to the staff on telling me the sandwich featured Aioli, not "Garlic Aioli" which seems to be everywhere these days. Guess what? Aioli means garlic mayo, so say garlic mayo or aioli, not both.