What was Union Station missing? If your answer is an Iberian-inspired “gastroteka” replete with gin and tonics (or gin-tonics, as they’re called in Spain) and lots of aged ham, well, we have great news for you: James Beard Award-winning chef Jennifer Jasinski, Beth Gruitch, and their partners at Crafted Concepts have finally opened Ultreia, which fits that exact description.
If you’ve lived in Denver for any significant amount of time, you know that Jasinski and Gruitch got their start with Rioja, a seasonal, pan-Mediterranean spot on Larimer Square (their group is also behind Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen, and Stoic & Genuine). And while Ultreia draws inspiration from a similar region of the world as Rioja, Ultreia’s menus will remain devoted to the racy—and locally underrepresented— flavors of Spain and Portugal. “We’re keeping it—not traditional,” Jasinski says, “but inspired by Iberia.”
In some cases, Jasinski and executive chef-partner Adam Branz serve Ultreia’s classic tapas, pintxos (Basque snacks, often presented on sticks), and raciones (larger portions) simply: There are platters of thinly shaved Spanish hams; addictive blistered padron peppers with olive oil and just the right amount of salt; classic pan con tomate; and gildas (skewers of anchovy, green chiles, and olives). With other dishes, the pair gets a bit more chef-y, dry-rubbing and pressure-cooking pork ribs (sourced from nearby Boulder Lamb & Meats) with Basque chile or charring cauliflower before setting it atop a creamy-fluffy pine nut purée. “I’ll take a classic recipe and make it better. You can improve and also keep it what it is,” Jasinski says.
One such example of that delicious innovation? The “trucha curada,” or cured trout, served in thin rolls alongside a citrus-olive salad, aioli, and house-made potato chips. Whether ordered as a light app or as part of larger tapas spread, it’s tasty alongside one of the creative gin-tonics, which employ unexpected ingredients such as spirulina syrup and cacao nibs to wonderful effect.
Though Ultreia’s space is tight at about 1,200 square feet, it’s dynamic thanks to a cozy mezzanine, granite-topped bar, and large patio. A plethora of wrought-iron pieces (check out the custom chandelier), earthy reddish banquettes, and a striking landscape mural—stretching across the walls and ceiling—in the 17th century style of Dutch painter Aelbert Cuyp, lend Old World elegance.
Traditional or not, Ultreia offers a wonderful LoDo respite for drinks and snacks—it will stay open from 11 a.m. through dinner daily, and serve most menu items all day long. Our recommendation? Pop by anytime you’re peckish for a gin-tonic or glass of sherry and a delectable snack or two.
Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop St., Ste. 125, 303-534-1970