It’s official: The modern Middle Eastern restaurant trend is stronger than ever on the Front Range. In fact, come autumn, Denver is going to practically be awash in hummus (in a good way): The news broke today that a few months after New Orleans chef Alon Shaya opens Safta in RiNo’s the Source Hotel, another Israeli-inspired eatery, Ash’Kara, will lure pita-crazed diners to the former Bremen’s Wine & Tap space (2005 West 33rd Street) in Highland.
Don’t expect the two restaurants to be carbon copies, though: Ash’Kara—Hebrew slang for “totally!” or “right on!” or “I agree!”—will have a wood-fired oven, pita, and dips like hummus and muhammara (as will Safta), but Ash’Kara is primed to be a casual, neighborhood-y hang out, the specialty of Culinary Creative Group, the masterminds behind Señor Bear, Bar Dough, the Tap & Burger chain, and soon-to-open Morin. The group has partnered with Shike Design to create a vibrant, eclectic space, with a menu from the deliciously unorthodox mind and experience of chef Daniel Asher (River and Woods, Acreage Ciderhouse & Eatery).
“You’d better believe that I’ll be the first person in line at Safta,” says Culinary Creative Group partner Juan Padro, “but Ash’Kara is something we’ve wanted to do for a couple of years now. The space will be super bright and playful with a louder, more boisterous vibe, and the food is not all about Israel—it’ll span the Mediterranean and Northern Africa too.”
Asher, whose father is a Holocaust survivor and who spent months on his family’s kibbutz in Western Galilee when he was an impressionable 20 years old, will channel his food memories of Israel, his childhood spent exploring the Middle Eastern foods available in Montreal, and years of global travel to create a unique menu with Israeli, Moroccan, Sephardic, and Tunisian influences. “I’m very connected to that style of food,” Asher says. “And my three favorite things to do, in order, are being a father, traveling, and cooking. Being able to take the second and third parts and a few decades of culinary journeying and mash them up in a complementary and respectful way should make for some pretty fun dining.”
Denverites can expect Asher’s strong commitment to sustainable, local sourcing to be at the forefront of the Ash’Kara menu, which will feature shared plates and large-format items utilizing organic produce, pastured meats, and ancient grains. Spices will take a headlining role as well, and many dishes will be cooked in clay tagines. “It’s going to be modern and urban and have the vibrant energy of eating at an incredible cafe in downtown Tel Aviv on a Friday night,” Asher says. “I want to bring those flavors and that vibe to the Denver community that I adore.”
We can hardly wait.