Raw dinner at Root Down

It started with a saffron-colored watermelon gazpacho spiked with cucumber habanero granita, pickled fennel and maple vinegar syrup. Each dip of the spoon revealed different layers of flavor, sweet first, then sour, then spicy; diaphanous beet slices surfed this tangy sea, adding a toothsome element.

Thus began our culinary adventure at Root Down's Raw Food Night. Last summer the restaurant did raw food specials every Tuesday, but with the opening of their sister eatery, Linger, last month in the old Olinger Mortuary just blocks away, the staff couldn't manage the sourcing and prep required of these labor-intensive all-organic, all-raw, vegan, gluten-free high-wire acts.

Fascinated by the raw food movement and how through wizardry, dehydration and a really good blender, "cooks" manage to conjure faux breads, pseudo noodles and mock meatballs, I was dying to try one of Chef Daniel Asher's raw food dinners.

I knew better than to try Nake-id ITs patience with a raw meal ("I'm paying $37 for this and it's not even cooked?"), so I asked friend Caitlin, a curious and slightly gluten-sensitive soul, who's always game for new taste treats.

Since I had dithered over making reservations, we could only get a 9 p.m. spot but arrived an hour early on the off-chance of no-shows. Though the night had been spitting rain, Root Down opened their patios and we were seated immediately.

Our table on the perimeter of the porch offered a southeastern view of the Denver skyline and the evening air was cool and still from the rain. Our server suggested three wines, a pinot noir, a white and a sparkling something, but since I was feeling chilled, I urged the red at the same time hoping we hadn't just bought a $75 bottle. (For Nake-id IT: We didn't.)

The pinot was a light but sturdy Oregonian, not a perfect match for watermelon gazpacho but better with the the English pea and almond samosas, which looked like nutty sushi rolls, tasted fruity and exotic and confounded our ability to identify what we were eating. The main course, spiralized summer squash served with a raw "puttanesca" sauce, caused us to reimagine semonlina pasta and plan a similar fate for the curcubits about to emerge from the garden.

Eventually the rain blew in again and the staff at Root Down swooped its damp al fresco diners indoors without ruffling a napkin.

The only disappointing course was the final. The cacao mousse was divine, as dark and velvety as a fleece. An extra dollop of the mousse would have sufficed. Instead, this very trendy plate featured half a raw fig--succulent and beautiful--a sweet lychee and a shot glass filled with a bitter, medicinal liquid--ginger-infused Thai coconut water, as it turns out.

But that's quibbling. If you're raw curious, make a reservation now for August's dinner, offered on the first Tuesday. We were told these rawsome meals always sell out.

Comments are closed