Eating at Kelly Liken is an exercise in time and place. Local, local, local products are chef Liken’s passion and, using classical techniques, her menu references American flavors. That’s not to say the flavors are expected, for she combines them in titillating, albeit wholesome, ways. Servers like Lisa Lockhart are educated about the cuisine. She doesn’t simply parrot the menu’s descriptions but can really speak about the food.
The menu is succinct, befitting the dining room’s cozy size. Still, it can be difficult to limit the offerings to one appetizer and one entree. In that case, try the tasting menu. Six courses are culled from the menu. Though there’s always a chef’s menu including hot and cold apps, fish or fowl, meat, cheese and dessert, it can be tailored for your specific desires. It would be difficult to decide between the pork belly (crowned with a paper-thin layer of pure flavor and served atop apple puree) and the shrimp (truffles accentuating the charred scent, grits both toothsome and creamy). Beg for both. The portions are always kept in check, so you won’t be overwhelmed. Tasting menus should be shared by the whole table.
The dining room and the wine bar both draw heavily from a wine-infused color scheme: chardonnay, cabernet and bubbly. And though the restaurant bears the name of its chef, as much thought goes into the libations as the cuisine. The cocktails (with non-alcoholic options, too) start with hand-pressed juices. And the wines… let’s just say you should always opt for the recommended pairings. The list is set up to encourage lots of tasting, and wine director Rick Colomitz’s crack staff does a great job.
The Colorado lamb is one special dish. Roasted at high heat so all the juices stay put inside, the accompanying pumpkin smash is a revelation of flavor. Paired with a Domaine St. Siffiren Chataneuf de Pape, the Old World flavor of both the dish and the wine is underscored. It’s almost primal, in the sense that the flavors resonate on an elemental level: the clean musk of pure pumpkin, the sweetness of roasted salsify, the intense lamb jus that just glazes the rack. And all of the ingredients are from Colorado.