July 7 2005, 7:46 PM
It's a good thing that I'm trying to watch what I eat, because at last night's practice dinner at 5 Degrees, we only got half our food. Guess that's one way to lose some weight. The event was fun, for sure, but the overall experience did have several of the expected flaws. Let's just start at the beginning, shall we? We showed up for our 7:30 seating at 7:20 p.m. The space looks spectacular -- especially given that I saw it Tuesday afternoon and it was a disheveled mess of unarranged furniture, paint dust, unfinished audio/visual elements and overall chaos. They whipped it into shape beautifully in time for the preview dinner; the dark wood floors were polished, the silver/black/white/orange lounge was stylish and inviting with bright orange chrysanthemums on every sleek table, and the dining room in back had a great hipster-in-Paris vibe with its neo-Baroque decor and striking black, white, and yellow custom furniture. We pulled up a bar stool to await the rest of our party, and got straight to work. The Dragon Boat martini was divine, with a not-too-sweet lemon pineapple flavor and a healthy punch of alcohol. Our two friends showed up, joined us at the bar, and we waited to be seated for at least 30 minutes. There seemed to be some confusion as to where they planned to put our party, with one hostess checking in to tell us we'd be in the lounge and another saying our table was ready in the dining room. Off to the dining room we went. Oddly enough, our table had been empty the entire time and everyone else in the room was several courses into their meals, not a promising sight for four hungry people. And the room was hot. I mean, really sweltering kind of hot. The black walls had absorbed the afternoon sunlight and the air conditioning was out, so the entire area was an oven. I have to give them props for sending out the good stuff, though. Each table got a bottle of Moet champagne, and the food that we tried was definitely better than average bar food. The small plates are just that -- small -- but then again, each item is priced under $10. We tried the spicy veal meatball with thick spaghetti noodles, three versions of potatoes (lobster mashed, herb mashed, and bleu cheese with balsamic vinaigrette), and the sirloin steak. Dessert was a lovely molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream -- which melted deliciously in the hot room and was one of the larger-sized portions. The steak and the lobster mashers were the clear favorites at my table, and other diners reported that the tuna roll was great. Wish I could have tried that but the kitchen never sent the second sampler platter to our table. Still, when you're eating a freebie test dinner and sipping complimentary bubbly, it doesn't feel right to complain. We did let our server know -- it was a practice dinner after all, and they need to work out the kinks -- but we wanted out of the heat so badly that skipping half our meal was not a problem. As you might expect at the former home of the Blue 67 martini bar, the crowd soon moved on to cocktailing in the lounge. It's going to be a problem if they aren't very careful to protect the dining experience, and the fact that the DJ booth is in the entrance to the dinner area really doesn't announce "fine dining" upon entrance. Still, chef Eric Roeder's menu is interesting and varied, and the room really is quite stunning, as is the rest of the lounge. If 5 Degrees can keep their cool, this might very well be Larimer's new hotspot for trendy lounge lizards, especially if they come with small appetites and large thirsts.