For years, Barolo Grill was one of my favorite special-occasion restaurants. Then, the Denver dining scene exploded and I became far more interested in checking out the new and novel.

Last week, after a two-year absence, I returned to Barolo to celebrate a birthday, and felt like I had reconnected with a loyal friend. The five-course tasting menu, something Barolo always offers, was as impressive as I remembered.

We began the meal with an exquisite raw chopped veal tenderloin, served with curled strips of lardo and grilled ciabatta. From there, we enjoyed a chilled seafood salad in which fat rings of calamari, delicate bites of marinated octopus, and tender shrimp were tossed in a citrusy vinaigrette along with crunchy arugula and sautéed bread cubes. The pasta course—a small bowl of soft agnolotti stuffed with eggplant and served with an elegant basil pesto—was both herby and sweet, thanks to the addition of fresh heirloom cherry tomatoes. The pasta was the perfect segue between the chilled salad and the warm and hearty meat course: a fork-tender braised lamb shoulder served with fragrant English peas.

You’d think we would have been stuffed by this point, but the dishes were appropriately sized and paced. Which means that we had room for the dessert course: a warm carrot cake nestled up against a cool cyclinder of house-made sage gelato.

After the meal, I decided I wouldn’t ignore my old friend Barolo for quite so long next time.

3030 E. Sixth Ave., 303-393-1040