Dining

Reviews: Elway's Downtown

Fighting for steak-house supremacy in Denver.

By
December 2008

(out of 4 stars)
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 1881 Curtis St., 303-312-3107, www.elways.com
The Draw An elegant dining room, well-seasoned steaks, chicken, and fish, and a deep wine list
The Drawback Soups, salads, and sides are underwhelming, and the prices are steep
Don't Miss Bone-in filet, rack of lamb, roasted chicken, and the brownie lollipop dessert
Vegetarian Options Roasted cauliflower, iceberg wedge salad, and grilled artichoke

More than ever, a night out has to feel like a night out—especially when we're forking over big bucks. Locally, heavyweights Del Frisco and the Capital Grille have set the tone for the high-dollar steak-house experience, pairing exquisite food with equally on-point service. And when Elway's of Cherry Creek arrived on the Denver scene, it too garnered its share of faithful patrons. With an elegant atmosphere, stellar steaks, and obvious star appeal (Number 7 is often in the house), it quickly became a powerhouse for the well-heeled. It was so successful that owner John Elway and biz partner Tim Schmidt opened a second location in the new downtown Ritz-Carlton in January.

In this economy, any newcomer to the steak-house scene would have to stand up next to all three vanguard establishments or die trying, and with its pedigreed credentials and sleek location, the new Elway's has all the building blocks. But it takes more than glitz-by-association to deliver an experience on the same level as the competition.

When it comes to two of the most important aspects of a steak house—USDA prime beef and a stunning collection of wines from around the world—Elway's Downtown scores well, especially when you consider the bone-in filet ($50), a generous 13-ounce cut with superb flavor without the extra fat. The cut is seasoned with Elway's signature 35-ingredient rub, a combination that brings deep peppery, garlicky flavor without overpowering the beef. This is an example of a dish done right—and when À la carte entrées average $50, it must be perfect.

That said, there are well-executed dishes on the menu that are real deals. The smash burger ($13) stands out as a particular value. The beef is sprinkled with seasoning, grilled to perfection, and served on a kaiser bun. Pair the sandwich with an order of the lightly salted frites and you'll enjoy a meal that's the best value on the menu. The roasted chicken (a deboned half bird) is also a superb choice for a relative bargain ($22). The seasoned poultry arrives sizzling hot on a personal-size cast-iron skillet, with crispy, flavorful skin.

On the splurge end, the frenched rack of lamb ($42) stands out as a worthy choice—the presentation is beautiful, and the meat benefits from the rub, which minimizes any gaminess. But pass on the pricey surf and turf. Although the lobster tails are nicely sized at seven ounces, they add an additional $30 to the price tag, which is higher than similar dishes at the nearby Capital Grille.

Spendy lobster tails aside, one of the strongest components of the menu is the fish, the domain of chef de cuisine Ben Davison. Davison, a graduate of the culinary program at Art Institute of Colorado, honed his skills under Philadelphia's greatest culinary talents.

Under Georges Perrier at Le Bec-Fin, Davison rose to the position of chef de poisson, where he learned classical preparation techniques. Further study under chefs Alfred Portale and Christopher Lee