Scan the menu at the Populist  and let your eyes settle on the smoked fish rillettes. The modest description (a common theme throughout the menu) doesn't adequately hint at the degree of sophistication.
When the appetizer (pictured) arrives composed with two pizzelles—one beet, one parsnip—a round of creamy trout cured in olive oil, and a canvas of crème fraîche, cornichons, onions, and capers, you get the full impact of chef and co-owner Jonathan Power's talent. (Food nerds will also appreciate the riff on Thomas Keller's classic salmon tartare cornets .) Break off a piece of the waffle-y crackers—these are chewier than expected, so as not to shatter—spread it with trout, and decorate at will.
"The food is simple," co-owner Noah Price says (full disclosure: Price and I are distant cousins). Simple, yes, but finessed and deeply satisfying. Paired with a cocktail, such as a crisp Aviation, you could stop right there and leave content.
Upcoming: Although the Populist will be closed December 24–30, the restaurant is offering a $65 seven-course tasting menu on New Year's Eve. Call for reservations.
3163 Larimer St., 720-432-3163