Cioppino is nothing if not a communal dish. With its abundant seafood and rich tomato-y broth, the San Francisco-born stew begs to be shared around the table. And thus, one could say it’s the perfect dish to usher in Vesta’s new era.
As the LoDo restaurant nears its 20th anniversary, owner Josh Wolkon has embarked on a thoughtful refresh of the Denver icon. He dropped “Dipping Grill” from the name, energized the space with new light fixtures, elegant chain mail details, and an antiqued mirror that divides the bar and dining room. The changes are subtle, so much so you might not even notice, and that’s the point: Vesta’s vibe and space and food have felt familiar since the eatery opened in July of 1997.
As part of the revamp, Wolkon hired Nicholas Kayser as Vesta’s new executive chef. His first menu, which launched last week, combines old and new. Dining at Vesta has always been defined by the the social act of gathering together and sharing a meal, and Kayser’s menu furthers that idea with shared plates. The dishes range from small (charred baby octopus à la Romagna; endive with blue cheese, lardons, and fig jam) to large (madras grilled venison; butter-roasted Chilean sea bass with veal demi-glace).
But it’s the lobster cioppino and its lusty saffron-tomato broth that best underscores the new Vesta. Kayser butter-roasts the lobster tail so it doesn’t overcook, spends three days making the broth, and then piles each oversized bowl with shrimp, sea bass, clams, mussels, and that lobster tail. A crostini smeared with saffron rouille tops the mix and should be dipped deep into the bowl to soak up the rich broth. Each bite is celebratory, yet familiar. Which, if you think of it, is just like the Vesta of then and now.
1822 Blake St., 303-296-1970
—Photo by Rachel Adams