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Every city boasts a signature food item. San Francisco has sourdough. Philadelphia, cheese steaks. Baltimore, blue crabs.
In Denver, we claim steak as our own. We grill it over char-coal barbecues, celebrate it at the National Western Stock Show inside a venue happily known as the Beef Palace, and plunk down inordinately large sums of money for it at any number of classic steak houses across the Front Range.
Some might argue that our worship of the almighty cow is a result of the state’s vitally important cattle industry; others might contend it’s a relic of Denver’s lingering, if ridiculously inaccurate, image as a cow town. Regardless, beef matters to the Mile High City, and that is no doubt one of the reasons the swank Four Seasons Hotel Denver decided its flagship restaurant should be—what else?—a steak house.
From New York City, all the way across the country, steak houses tend to follow a time-tested formula. There is dark wood, and there are white tablecloths. There is steak, and there are sides. There are expensive bottles of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. So you could be forgiven for thinking that as a hotel restaurant—even if it is a Four Seasons—Edge Restaurant & Bar would be an impersonal, overpriced dining room that would give travelers on expense accounts exactly what they wanted. And, indeed, Edge’s muted earth tones, high ceilings, and Art That Does Not Offend could be found in almost any upscale hotel in the world.
But ultimately, Edge isn’t about the atmosphere. It’s about how chef Simon Purvis, a 20-year veteran of Four Seasons resorts, has managed to sculpt a new breed of Denver steak house—one that respects our state’s shit-kicking, cattle-ranching tradition, but also recognizes the fact that this city outgrew its skin-tight Wranglers a long time ago. In short, Purvis has created a steak house where the basil-and-balsamic crowd can peacefully coexist with the twice-baked potato types.
The interweaving of classic and contem-porary is best realized at the top of the menu. Purvis’ star appetizer is the Kobe beef, in which several raw slices of tender meat arrive with a face-warming hot stone for tabletop grilling. Spear a thin slice of meat, dunk it into the accompanying truffle-ponzu sauce (an earthy soy-citrus combination), and lay it gently atop the stone. Instantly, you’ll hear the pop and sizzle and be transported by the heady smell. But it’s the taste—the dissolve-on-contact tenderness of the beef—that will cause you to settle in for the evening.
Giving diners a taste of what they expect while packaging dishes in unexpected ways is what Purvis does best. At Edge, you’ll find a cool and crunchy iceberg wedge. But instead of dressing it with too-rich blue cheese, Purvis drizzles his with a light and creamy ranch. You’ll find a plump crab cake, but the more traditional rémoulade has been replaced by a fragrant basil sauce and tantalizing blood orange fennel slaw.
Because Edge is a hotel restaurant, the meat menu—the set piece around which all else revolves—has been designed with travelers and their Rocky Mountain expectations in mind. Here, you’ll find bison, Colorado lamb, venison sausage, and loads of prime beef, including Kobe from Wyoming. All of it is, at the risk of gushing, transcendently flavorful. This is because Purvis stays away from cloying spice rubs—oil, kosher salt, and white pepper are his only seasonings—and instead lets the searing heat and light smoke from a pecan wood fire flavor each cut with a delicate, campfire-like appeal.
The menu offers the standards: filet mignon, rib eye, Kansas City strip. But if you find yourself craving something more than a simple cut, the Wagyu short rib, a generous stack of succulent braised beef, somehow manages to be comforting in a Sunday-at-grandma’s sort of way and also worthy of a strapless Saturday night on the town. Whatever you decide, resist the temptation to get all fancy with béarnaise or peppercorn, or any of the other toppings. You just don’t need them.
Edge also offers a respectable fish lineup. The grilled salmon, unadorned, provided the same satisfying simplicity as the grilled meat. I did try it one evening with the crab citrus hollandaise, and found the sauce lumpy, undistinguished, and wholly unnecessary.
Purvis’ side dishes—which report to work in miniature Le Creuset crocks—put a fun, interesting spin on the traditional steak house staples. You could order simple steamed spinach, but why not choose the creamed spinach laced with lively horseradish? Or, instead of a plain mound of mashed potatoes, the English bubble and squeak—a nod to Purvis’ Hampshire, England, upbringing—combines comforting mashed potatoes with sweetly roasted carrots, cabbage, and onions.
Purvis also has fun with macaroni and cheese. He takes the pasta, mixes it with a superthick cheddar-Parmesan-Asiago sauce, scoops it into balls, adds a dash of truffle oil, then breads and fries it. The crispy macaroni- and-cheese balls are delightful from a texture and presentation standpoint, but I found them too bland to win top honors in the flavor category. Order this one for the kids.
The service at Edge is attentive without being annoying, and I was especially impressed by each server’s knowledge of the wine list. Instead of summoning a sommelier, each was able to answer questions from the oenophiles at our table. And while Edge offers high-dollar cult Cabernets like Opus One at $350 a bottle, there is also an impressive range of bottles in the $35 to $70 range.
My only complaint: I often had a hard time hearing the servers over the classic rock playing in the background. For an environment that strives to be soothing and indistinct, I found the company of Led Zeppelin and Boston to be distracting and oddly out of place.
The music, however, is not a deal breaker. The meat, the service, the surprising twist on the trite steak house tradition: All of these things easily overshadowed a few minor negatives. Even more refreshing and rare: Purvis is not about Purvis. Instead, he’s a company man who eschews the first-person pronoun in favor of the collective “we” (When we wrote the menu; when we buy the meat.) In a state where rugged individualism reigns supreme, his lack of ego may be Edge’s most notable characteristic, and the precise reason his new steak house is such a welcome addition to Denver’s dining scene.
Edge Restaurant & Bar
1111 14th St.