When Departure opens in Cherry Creek North tonight, it brings with it the guise of global travel. The glossy bar mimics that of a sleek airliner overhead and luxury travel details (airfield maps-turned-art, X-rays of suitcases) bolster the sexy space. But while the decor draws you in, it’s culinary director (and celeb chef) Gregory Gourdet and executive chef Khamla Vongsakoun’s coastal Asian menu that will make you stay.

Dishes—dim sum, poke, kushiyaki, wok-cooked items—pull inspiration from Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia and the regions’ interplay of flavor, texture, temperature, and spice. Many items on the menu are a reflection of Gourdet, Vongsakoun, and co-founder of Sage Restaurant Group Peter Karpinski‘s travels.

Take the watermelon salad from the Additions menu: The fruit is served ice-cold, cut and stacked like Lincoln logs, and topped with sprigs of mint and cilantro, rings of red chile, and salmon floss. The chewy salmon-y, umami-rich threads are what differentiate this dish from any other. The technique of curing the fish with a curried paste, baking it into oblivion, flaking it, and dehydrating it pays homage to the centuries-old Chinese technique of drying meat. The result is a savory, jerky-like chewiness that transforms watermelon into a must-have item. As Gourdet says, “It’s a dish that balances icy and spicy.” And it’s a perfect refresher for a hot summer day. Add in a cocktail (try the absurdly smooth Eightfold Path vodka martini) from Brandon Wise’s bar and you’ll never want to leave.

Social Media Master: Gourdet, who was the runner up on Bravo’s Top Chef in 2015 (and has a cool 23,000+ Instagram followers), is taking over 5280’s Instagram account for a day. Tune in Friday for a behind-the-scenes look at Departure.

Bonus: On Saturday, August 13 from 6 to 9 p.m., Gourdet and Departure, will make an appearance (samples!) at the annual Cherry Creek North Food & Wine bash.

Departure opens tonight for dinner; lunch service begins Thursday. 249 Columbine St., 720-772-5020, departuredenver.com

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Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.