Dining

Review: Euclid Hall

Making a good case for gluttony in Larimer Square.

April 2011

Euclid Hall

Food:
Service:
Ambience:

1317 14th St., 303-595-4255, www.euclidhall.com

The Draw Comforting pub food with an upscale twist served in a hip and casual environment.

The Drawback Service and execution can be inconsistent.

Don’t Miss Roasted duck poutine, oyster shells and shots, marlin crudo, Bavarian weisswurst, sourdough waffle ice cream sandwich.

Price $$ (average entrée price $15.50)

Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen subscribes to the theory that people have had it with low-calorie, high-dollar, fancy food. The restaurant doesn’t explicitly proclaim this philosophy, but one look at the menu and you suspect that’s what restaurateur Jennifer Jasinski, 42, (the chef who also co-owns Rioja and Bistro Vendôme) was thinking. On her menu: gravy, pig’s ears, sausage, schnitzel, fried bananas, and the ultimate French-Canadian junk food known as poutine, which combines french fries, cheese curds, and gravy.

In an era when the prevailing mood in restaurants is a wholesome farmers’ market earnestness (think shaved Brussels sprouts and pickled pearl onions), Jasinski has bucked the trend by building her menu around unapologetic high-fat-and-calorie pub food. Judging from the crowds, her strategy has found a relieved and enthusiastic audience. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks beet salad can only take you so far.

Euclid Hall, located just off Larimer Square in the space previously occupied by Martini Ranch, conveys a modern beer-hall atmosphere with high ceilings, exposed brick, and wooden tables. Here, the most fitting way to begin the meal is with a selection from the lengthy beer list. Depending on your preference, you could sip on an easy-drinking lager or a complex quadrupel ale. Although there's a varied wine and cocktail selection, beer is what this place is about.

To best experience the restaurant, plan your meal around the specialty dishes: house-made sausages and poutines. Jasinski’s sausages are inspired by the cased creations of several different cultures. She offers hoppwurst with ground beer hops, pork, and cheese curds; a non-traditional French blood and pork sausage (or boudin noir), made unique with a blend of curry, golden raisins, and eggplant; the more Polish and smoky beef short rib kielbasa; and, my favorite, the juicy Bavarian weisswurst, a large veal sausage—the smooth texture of which is brightened by the addition of lemon zest and parsley. To try them all, order the sausage tasting and share it with a table full of friends.

You’ll also want to share the poutines—heaps of salty-in-just-the-right-way steak fries, topped with chewy cheese curds and a choice of beef, duck, or mushroom gravy. I especially like the smooth and peppery roasted duck gravy. Tip: Eat it with a fork.

The multicultural influence seen in the sausages and poutines can be found throughout Jasinski’s menu, which has been developed and executed with the help of chef de cuisine Jorel Pierce. Their menu offers a bit of everything, including all-American steak, French foie gras, and German spaetzle. Sometimes the different cultures show up in the same dish.

Her chicken and waffles, for example, takes the classic combo and builds it around a more Austrian breaded-and-fried schnitzel preparation. The flavors and textures of this dish play well together—that is, when cooked correctly. One night the chicken was moist and tender; on another, the chicken was dry and mercilessly overcooked.

The same chewy toughness was found in the veal schnitzel. While the accompanying currant vinaigrette offered a sweetly acidic counterpoint, it wasn’t enough to overcome the texture. Jasinski, who learned the art of schnitzel-making from Wolfgang Puck, takes a purist Austrian approach and pounds her schnitzel meat extra thin before frying. But this increases the potential for overcooking, and I have to think a slightly thicker piece of meat and less time in the fryer would lead to a better consistency.

If you’re not in the mood for a full-fledged meal, Euclid Hall offers an impressive list of snack plates and starters. The standout is the oyster shells and shots, a dish that combines two preparations: oysters on the half shell with a cool and spicy Bloody Mary granita, and shot glasses filled with a refreshing cucumber gin gimlet. The oysters are so satisfying I find it difficult not to immediately order half a dozen with every visit.

The marlin crudo is another attention-getter. The fish, which tends to be firm and steak-like when cooked, is served with only a light sear. The delicate slices are topped with zingy bits of caper and lemon, crunchy pine nuts, and a drizzle of nutty Moroccan argan oil. The whole presentation is then anchored with a surprising nod to pub fare: a creamy deviled egg.

More comfort is found in the mussels, steamed in New Belgium Brewing’s Trippel Belgian Style Ale. The mussels come plump and juicy and the surrounding broth, built around garlic and thyme, is too dredge-worthy to resist.

My main complaint about Euclid Hall is that the kitchen can have a heavy hand. While a bit of muscle is appropriate for sausages and poutines, lighter dishes require more delicacy. The rocket salad, for example, was limp from an abundance of lemon vinaigrette. Too much oil obscured the natural crunch of the apple-cabbage slaw. And the braised white sturgeon, a tender white fish, was rendered inedible by the surrounding bowl of too-salty duck brodo.

The same inconsistency in execution can also be found in the service. Each of my visits began impressively. The waitstaff knows the menu, understands the preparations, and can cite the backstory of brewers on the beer list. But each visit, the wheels fell off. Food arrived before cocktails. Drinks were forgotten. Servers disappeared for long stretches. Although not egregious, the gaps were irritating.

Euclid Hall, perhaps subconsciously, does have an amend-making dessert list. My favorite item is the ice cream sandwich—a slab of butterscotch ice cream served between two warm, crunchy sourdough waffles. It’s not the kind of treat you’d want every day, but that’s true with most things on the menu.

And that’s exactly the point. While there is a time and place for precious food, we all have a need for some filling extravagance every now and then. Euclid Hall meets that need…most of the time.