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Ultra-silky chicken liver and foie gras mousse at LeRoux (Photo by Lucy Beaugard)

Two Years in the Making, European-Inspired LeRoux Is a Stunner

Chefs Lon Symensma and Jeff Stoneking have just made dining on the 16th Street Mall a whole lot more delicious.

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Sparkling crystal chandeliers. Tufted leather. Tall white taper candles flickering on every table. Classic-with-a-twist bistro fare spanning the cuisines of France, Spain, Italy, and Germany. LeRoux, the new LoDo restaurant from chef Lon Symensma and partner Christopher Massey of ChoLon Restaurant Concepts (ChoLon, Cho77, BorraCho Tacos, Concourse), showcases all of the above and more.

It took two years to get LeRoux designed, built, and cooking, so Symensma, Massey, executive chef Jeff Stoneking, and the rest of the team are already properly dialed in to the restaurant’s Old World concept (despite opening just two weeks ago). “We want you to feel like you’ve been dropped into a restaurant in New York City, or Paris, or Rome,” Symensma says. That’s a goal countless local (and national) restaurateurs have attempted to achieve. At LeRoux it rings true.

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Created in partnership with Urban Villages, Semple Brown, and Hive Construction, LeRoux is stunning. Smallish white oak tables set with classic bistro chairs pair beautifully with the slate blue walls and leather banquettes, black-and-white tile flooring, and antiqued mirrors. Sit by the massive windows looking out onto the 16th Street Mall at Blake Street to watch crowds pass by and twinkling lights shine from street lamps, or head past the marble-topped bar into the rear of the restaurant for a more private perch.

Symensma’s and Stoneking’s menu is equally polished and based on Symensma’s training at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and in Michelin-starred restaurants in France and New York City. “We had to make the food soigné,” says Symensma, referring to the hospitality industry’s term for taking exceptional care of guests, an imperative Symensma learned from his CIA mentor and the restaurant’s namesake, Xavier LeRoux.

Gracefully spanning “gourmandise” small plates, vegetable-centric dishes, and entrées of meat and seafood, LeRoux’s menu takes care of all sorts of eaters. Dining with vegetarians? LeRoux has a dedicated vegetable section on its menu that delivers clever, technique-driven spins on classics. Take the beet and goat cheese salad—a traditional combo—for which Symensma and Stoneking freeze the creamy cheese and then grate it in snowy drifts over roasted beets, citrus, arugula, and a rich chestnut cream. Cauliflower and mushrooms take center stage in what would typically be dessert preparations: The cauliflower transforms into a savory crème brûlée with raisins and salty capers, while paper-thin slices of king trumpet mushrooms are compressed and roasted into a buttery “mille-feuille” (typically a multi-layered pastry) that’s as gorgeous as it is delicious.

Seafood lovers will struggle to choose between octopus, mussels, whole lobster, and scallops; we say order the perfectly seared scallops in rich Champagne “beurre blanc” (a butter-enriched French sauce). And carnivores—as well as fans of ChoLon’s French onion soup dumplings—will become LeRoux regulars if only for the sumptuous French onion beef short ribs. The meat is braised into melting decadence with a mixture of veal stock, Gruyère rinds, and caramelized onion liquid leftover from making the dumplings; it’s served with Gruyère-laced potato purée, molten leeks, crunchy breadcrumbs, and pickled onions.

The wine list is fittingly entirely European, but the bar promotes Colorado beers and spirits as well as more common counterparts. Try the Ménage à Trois cocktail for its smooth union of genever, Amaro Nonino, and nutty Spanish sherry, especially if you’re finishing your meal with one of pastry chef Jesse Howland’s refined desserts. The chocolate opera cake with hazelnut ice cream or the delicate Paris-Brest with pistachio cream and salted caramel would both be delicious pairings.

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Symensma and his team are also offering an abbreviated version of LeRoux’s dinner menu during weekday lunch, with more soups and salads, sandwiches, and steak frites on offer; brunch will be served on weekends before too long. Which means that there’s no excuse at all for not stopping by one of Denver’s most exciting new openings of the season.

1555 Blake St., Ste. 102, 720-845-1673

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