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Jon Lavelle isn’t a chatty sort of guy, although the ways he expresses himself on the plate can be effusive. He won’t say much to explain why he left his post as chef at the Way Back this past spring, or dive too deeply into his recent gig at Esoterra Culinary Garden, working with Mark DeRespinis (although Lavelle does readily state that “what [Mark] is doing there is amazing.”). No, Lavelle would rather simply cook for you, telling you how he feels through his new fall menu at Fruition Restaurant, where he became executive chef in July.
The current menu—the restaurant’s 113th, to be exact, with only two other executive chefs in charge of the culinary team since its 2007 opening—communicates Lavelle’s approach perfectly. It’s a lighter, more savory collection of dishes across snacks, small plates, and entrées; Colorado-grown ingredients are paramount. Of course, Lavelle is using plenty of Esoterra’s exquisite specialty produce, from red orach and edible flowers to Badger Flame beets, and Corner Post Meats’ pork too. But Lavelle is also translating his hallmark creativity through Seidel’s vision for Fruition: an upscale neighborhood restaurant that celebrates the seasons and the Centennial State.
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“I like taking an unusual approach to comfort,” Lavelle says, in response to my swooning over his fried sweetbread slider. It’s a winning combination of juicy, crispy sweetbreads and tangy pickled celery and mustard seeds resting between the fluffy halves of a toasted Füdmill Hawaiian roll. The $5 snack is probably three bites of food, but those three bites have haunted me (in a good way).
As savory as the slider is, Lavelle channels sweetness with tender Alaskan king crab in a bite-size Little Gem lettuce wrap garnished with ripe mango, nori furikake, and a nuoc cham-esque dressing. On another plate, late-season tomatoes look like a lavish painting, adorned with melon and Esoterra greens, but then grounded by a shot of chile oil. Lavelle is delivering more classical plates, too, including buttery seared scallops with grapes, hazelnuts, and cauliflower, the last appearing twice—puréed and roasted—on the plate.
Fruition’s cocktail menu has also been revamped by head bartender, James Gladney, showing off a similarly innovative approach. One example from Gladney’s summer menu: the margarita, crafted and clarified in the style of a bourbon milk punch. Sadly no longer on the menu in favor of more autumnal drinks, it was rich and silky, with just the faintest whiff of campfire from a mezcal rinse; lots of bartenders promise barely-there mezcal smoke but few succeed in delivering. The fall options are surely equally excellent, and there are several non-alcoholic drinks, too, including the intriguing One Night in Paris, made with pu’er Bordeaux syrup and soda.
As Seidel works on a minor remodel at Mercantile Dining & Provision in Union Station (which should reopen in the next couple of weeks) and planning Mercantile’s second location at DIA, Fruition is in the talented hands of Lavelle and Gladney, not to mention winemaker-turned-director-of-operations Andrew Schlapinski. In other words (mine, not Jon’s), now’s the time to dine at Fruition.
1313 E. 6th Ave., 303-831-1962