Best Bites: The Populist's Gravlax Panzanella

August 2013

Over the years, a Scandinavian friend has schooled me in some of her native country’s beguiling attributes: cyclist colonies on teacup-size islands, inconceivably compact homes, and—perhaps most important—flawlessly cured salmon.

I was reminded of the latter when I tasted the gravlax panzanella at the Populist.

That’s not to say the Populist is a Scandinavian-inspired restaurant. Hardly, the menu is an ebb and flow of different cultures and cuisines: a tandoori chicken dish sits side by side with drunken noodles topped with pork belly. The panzanella itself is a gorgeous mishmash of Italian and Swedish influences.

Ribbons of cured Skuna Bay salmon arrive layered over a Tuscan-style salad (ahem, panzanella) made with chopped garden vegetables and bread soaked in dressing. The salmon’s dark pink hue comes from being cured with red beets, salt, and sugar instead of the more traditional dill mixture. Those jewel-like pieces tangle with bits of compressed watermelon and slices of compressed honeydew and cucumber (the technique amplifies the fruits’ flavor and texture), olive oil–drizzled ciabatta, and fragrant fennel.  

Tip: Pair the dish with the le demon vert cocktail (Monopolowa gin, velvet falernum, and lime juice and garnished with a licorice nib). The drink complements the salad's clean notes of fennel and cucumber and confirms that chef Jonathan Power orchestrates a harmonious menu from sip to savor.

For more on the Populist, read our review of the restaurant in the August issue.

3163 Larimer St., 720-432-3163