Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eating Outdoors + Good Food = A Nice Restaurant


Sunday, our last day in Denver, having nothing planned except exploring the city, we ended up in the 16th Street Mall. This area, located just east of Invesco Field at Mile High, is a series of blocks that are mostly off-limits to traffic (with the exception of city buses). Full of shops and bistros, Natasha and I wanted to eat, and we wanted something local. As luck would have it, we happened upon Marlowe's.

Marlowe's initially caught our eye due to its comfortable outside dining area. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I love to eat outside when the weather is nice. Unfortunately Kansas City is woefully lacking in this department. A quick glance of the menu posted next to the door and Natasha was hooked. They offer made-from-scratch soups and the girl's a sucker for clam chowder.

As it was just past the lunch rush on a Bronco's home-game Sunday, the place was mostly empty and we were shown to a table outside, where we were given a few moments to peruse the menu. Not being overly hungry, we decided on a bowl of soup each, and a split appetizer. Natasha, of course, choose the New England clam chowder, while I opted for a bowl of the soup du jour, sweet buffalo sausage chilli. For an appetizer, we went with the Rhode Island calamari.

Our soups arrived in short order, Natasha's clam chowder was delicious; your standard New England clam chowder with clams, potatoes and root veggies in a cream sauce. Served with oyster crackers, it was definitely up to her demanding standards.

My buffalo sausage chilli was even better. Featuring the surprisingly sweet flavor of the buffalo (or is it bison?) sausage, with corn, onions and a variety of spices, it had a complex, yet well-harmonized flavor. The spice blend was spot-on, and there were no dominating flavors, just an emphasis on the sweetness of the meat. With just a touch of heat, I would have preferred it to be spicier, but adding hot sauce of any kind would have destroyed the harmony of the flavors.

As good as the soups were, the calamari was the real star of the show. Served with a sriracha-tomato coulis and a lemon-poppy seed aioli, it was perfectly golden, not overcooked and tough like it tends to be at most places. Garnished with lemon zest, parsley, and surprisingly, fried capers, it was very well executed. The sauces provided a nice counter-point to each other, the creaminess of the aioli contrasting with the salsa-like coulis, each complimenting the squid meat, not dominating it. My only issue was the absence of the sriracha flavor in the coulis, a small complaint, in an otherwise outstanding dish.

Locally owned, and apparently popular with Denverites (Denverians? the Denverese?), we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. The patio was comfortable and enjoyable, and the inside, which we only saw briefly, seemed tasteful and elegant. The servers were polite and reasonably attentive.

The menu offered a variety of steaks, seafood dishes and traditional favorites, and though prices were a bit higher than I like (our meal with drinks was $30 + tip), the calamari alone made it worth it, and the good soup was an added bonus.

Food: 4.8
Atmosphere: 4
Service: 3.5
Menu: 3.5
Price: 2.7
Total: 18.5
Average: 3.7

Marlowe's on Urbanspoon

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