Something deliciously fishy is happening right now at LoHi’s Avanti Food & Beverage. Del Mar by Rooted, a seafood-centric food stall from Vesta alums chef Nicholas Kayser and bar manager Scott Ericson, opened on January 23.
Kayser says launching Del Mar, an extension of his and Ericson’s three-month-old Root Craft American Kitchen inside Boulder’s Avanti, wouldn’t have gone as smoothly without the help of their tight-knit team, comprised of several Vesta vets—a rare silver lining following the closure of that beloved downtown restaurant. Former line cook Alex Powell now helms Del Mar’s kitchen as chef de cuisine with the help of cooks Daniel Lee and Stefan Kligora; Jeff Smith has signed on as the Del Mar’s counter-service maven.
First tastes of Del Mar’s menu reveal the team’s ability to work together harmoniously to produce tasty, beautifully plated pescatarian and vegetarian dishes. Kayser is focused on using just a few select ingredients on each plate, ensuring that the flavors of the centerpiece—the sustainably sourced and produced fish or vegetable—really shine. “We are focused on different preparations of fish styles, always trying to offer something raw, fried, roasted, and grilled, and some sort of taco,” Kayser says.
Order the roasted cold-smoked salmon from the current menu, which is a crispy-skinned masterpiece accompanied by fried oysters, fresh dill and chives, house-made tartar sauce, and warm, vinegar-tinged potato salad. For something vegetarian, try Del Mar’s grilled artichokes, which come as two ultra-tender hearts dressed with a tangy lemon vinaigrette under a shower of crispy shallots, Parmesan, and tart sumac. Other dishes in the seafood lineup include a tuna poke bowl, cornmeal-crusted calamari, grilled whole Colorado trout, fried Alaskan cod tacos, clam chowder, and low-meets-luxe caviar and potato chips. All are affordably priced between $8 and $18 (besides the caviar, which will set you back $95 for an ounce of the precious stuff, plus waffle fries and crème fraîche).
The menu at Del Mar (Spanish for “of the sea”) will rotate six to seven times per year, depending on what catches and produce are in season. Kayser purchases most of the seafood from Denver-based Seattle Fish Company, which he trusts for its commitment to sustainability, and sources other fresh ingredients from as many local farms as possible, including Cured Organic Farm, Kilt Farm, Altius Farms, and Acres at Warren Tech.
Kayser, a co-founder of the Zero Proof alcohol-free dinner series, and Ericson, who served as the wine bar manager at Potager before his tenure at Vesta, are also passionate about pairing their dishes with inventive nonalcoholic cocktails. “We brought the Zero Proof idea with us [through these] thought-provoking N/A pairings. The beverage shouldn’t be an afterthought,” Kayser says.
The Yuzu So Crazy is certainly no afterthought, but rather a warming combo of a cucumber shrub (a concentrated syrup made of aromatics, fruit, and vinegar), yuzu juice, rice wine vinegar, and Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic—an excellent complement to the roasted salmon. It’s also tasty with a shot of gin, if you want something boozy.
In the future, Kayser and Ericson hope to open a brick-and-mortar that marries the Rooted Crafted American Kitchen and Del Mar concepts. Until then, head to Avanti in LoHi to reel in your own taste of the sea.
3200 N. Pecos St.