Pham’s right—and he’s ready for you. Starting at $75 and going as high as your love for toro (and your wallet) allows, the small plates coming out of the eight-seat, upstairs raw bar at Foraged are innovative and unique. Consider: A crispy potato chip topped with fatty tuna, caviar, truffles, and foie gras; albacore seared with so much butter that it adopts that texture itself; a piece of wild Japanese barracuda called kamasu that you’ve probably never heard of, let alone tasted.
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And that’s just the beginning. Pham progresses to cooked dishes, like plum-wine-marinated duck breast “sushi” with shitake mushrooms, or maybe rock shrimp potato dumplings with barramundi in a shrimp pan sauce. These are not the types of dishes he could do at Parker Garage.
“I wanted to do more elegant and upscale food and add the raw element,” Pham says. “I like to interact and I like to create—that’s my passion. This restaurant will give me the opportunity to create every day.”
Foraged and Parker Garage owner Brent Walker is all for it. “[Pham’s] not a line cook, he’s not a kitchen manager, he’s just creative. We’re gonna turn him loose on the city so he can showcase his creativity,” Walker says.
Pham has cooked in all sorts of Colorado locales, from opening Restaurant Fifteen Twenty One in Pueblo to working as executive chef at Denver’s now-shuttered Tante Louise and Littleton’s Kyoto to leading the kitchen at Parker Garage. He’s excited to be back in Denver now, where he feels he can play with better techniques and ingredients—like the rare fresh yuzu he happened upon from a California distributor. He also gets to play with Japanese carbon steel knives, which he forges himself. (Hence the restaurant’s preferred spelling of its name—For[a]ged—with brackets around the ‘a.’)
You may also see Pham’s son, Brenan, behind the raw bar; the 20 year old has worked at Parker Garage since he was 15. “I’ve been training him since he was 12. I wish I was that good when I was his age,” Pham says.
Foraged’s regular menu is more predictable and traditional. Starters include steamed mussels in white wine broth and charred shishito peppers; entrées feature upscale proteins like lamb, duck, and steak. The prices reflect the fanciness, with most hovering in the $30s and going up to the $40s (for the lamb and New York strip), and even hitting $95 for a gigantic 32-ounce ribeye.
Because the restaurant is perched on the south side of the pedestrian-friendly Dairy Block, it plans on opening a takeout window facing the alley. And, with the city’s new common consumption law, Foraged may be able to serve drinks out of the window, too. But we recommend following Pham’s advice: Head upstairs and let him or Brenan create something special for you.
If you go: Foraged is open every day 11 a.m. until a mystery closing time; 1825 Blake St.