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Eat and Drink

Denver, Get Ready for the Wolf’s Tailor

Kelly Whitaker’s first Mile High City restaurant, opening on September 1, features a compelling mix of Asian and Italian fare anchored by heirloom grains and a zero-waste philosophy.

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When the Wolf’s Tailor opens its doors to the public on September 1, its going to be unlike any other restaurant in Denver. The food, design, style of service, and beverage program are unique and compelling, which is just what Kelly Whitaker, also chef/owner of Basta in Boulder, envisioned when he began planning the Sunnyside restaurant more than four years ago.

Named after Whitaker’s proclivity for working behind the scenes—he’s akin to the artisan who creates a sheep outfit for a wolf so that the carnivore can catch his supper—the Wolf’s Tailor is also a shoutout to the producers, growers, and service industry pros who make our restaurants possible. Its menu delivers an elegant, eclectic mix of hand-extruded noodles, binchotan-grilled skewers, hearth flatbreads, Japanese-style pickles, and creative desserts from Michelin-starred Jeb Breakell (who recently left Emmerson in Boulder to join Whitaker’s Id Est. Hospitality Group). Kodi Simkins and Sean May (formerly of Frasca Food and Wine) will lead the kitchen on the savory side, alongside culinary director Sean Magallanes (who helped Whitaker open Basta eight years ago).

Binchotan-grilled skewers meld the culinary traditions of Italian spiedini and Japanese kushiyaki. Photo by Jeffrey Hunt

This stellar culinary team will bring years of experience to bear as they execute Whitaker’s vision: to marry the influences from his time cooking in California, Italy, China, and Japan with his commitments to heirloom grains and maintaining a zero-waste kitchen. To wit, tender cuts of meat will be cooked on skewers and glazed in house-made sauces, while larger, tougher cuts will go into donabe (Japanese clay pot) braises and homemade stocks. Leftover bones will be carbonized into charcoal, following the example of chef Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and that charcoal will then fuel the robata grill that cooks the aforementioned skewers

Noodles will be made from freshly-milled Colorado heirloom grains. Photo by Jeffrey Hunt

As at Basta, there is a wood-burning hearth for turning out fluffy flatbreads, and steel rods in the kitchen will display noodles crafted from house-milled heirloom grains. The bran from the milling process will go into a Japanese-style starter of sorts, called “nuka,” in which vegetables, fruits, pork belly, and more will ferment into pickles and sauce ingredients for—you guessed it—the noodles. “The plan is for full utilization of each ingredient, and zero waste,” Whitaker says.

Most of the menu will consist of small plates, but there will be one rotating family-style dish that groups of seven to 12 people can pre-order, similar to the lasagne available at Basta. “We keep thinking about Momofuku’s bo ssam feasts,” Whitaker says, “but the Wolf’s will feature a range of whole proteins, such as duck or fish, plus a grain and our pickles.”

Longtime partner and wine director Alan Henkin has curated a boutique wine program that focuses on the alpine regions of France, northern Italy, Germany, and Austria, with a particular emphasis on dry Riesling and experimental wines. Raffi Jergerian (of Social and Union Bar and Soda Fountain in Fort Collins) handles the cocktail menu, including the exquisite, finely carbonated whiskey-and-soda concoctions coming from the on-trend Suntory highball machine. There will also be draught beer, cider, and sake.

Whiskey highballs and a killer garden patio are two of the many reasons why the Wolf’s Tailor is one of the hottest Denver openings of 2018.

The space, designed by architects Kevin Nguyen and Scott Lawrence (Nguyen Lawrence), is simple, open, and graceful, with painted brick walls bringing warmth, street-side windows flooding the restaurant with natural light, and glass walls separating the kitchen from the two dining areas. Guests will be able to watch the cooks at work while servers pull wine and beer from the taps, all lending to what Whitaker hopes will be a party vibe similar to the rowdy feel at Hop Alley.

The Wolf’s party will start each evening, weather-permitting, in its private backyard garden, where Whitaker partnered with Boulder’s Farm n’Wild Wellspring and Colorado Backyard Farms to create an al fresco dining area surrounded by concrete raised bed planters. In fact, guests eating in the garden will lean back against those planters, which act as banquettes in conjunction with long, reclaimed wood community tables. Inside the planters are Barber’s Row 7 Seeds’ cucumbers and squash, as well as fresh herbs, tomatoes, and other produce destined for the Wolf’s kitchen. A fire pit and benches anchor another area on the patio, where Whitaker hopes people will enjoy snacks and drinks ordered from the walk-up window (available from 4 to 6 p.m.) or linger over dessert around the fire. “We want there to be a neighborhood hangout vibe in the garden,” he says. “And we hope that the restaurant will become a gathering space for the community.”

Know before you go: To start, the Wolf’s Tailor will be open Wednesday through Saturday, with garden snacks beginning at 4 p.m. and dinner service running from 6 to 11 p.m.; Tuesday nights will be used for local collaboration events and pre-fixe neighborhood suppers. The Wolf’s Tailor accepts very few reservations for parties of two to six people via Tock; for family-style dining experiences for parties of seven to 12 people, you can make a pre-paid reservation through Tock with 72 hours advance notice.

4058 Tejon St., 720-456-6507

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