(entrance to Oak / crispy egg, chicken confit, roasted mushrooms on toast / hamachi crudo)
A bitter cold night in Boulder, CO could tempt even the most adventurous of souls to stay in versus bare the elements for a dinner out on Pearl St. I was nearly one of those people who wanted to stay in my nicely appointed room at the St Julien, sipping coffee in my lux robe but I had reservations at one of the Top 25 Restaurants in Denver which was reason enough to bundle up and I am so happy I did.
Oak at Fourteenth is the perfect juxtaposition of a contemporary restaurant and a rustic lounge all in one. A large oak grill greets you as you walk in to the streamlined and dimly lit space. The restaurant is simple but endearing with exposed wood beams and an open kitchen. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable but know how to keep their distance. And the very best… the food is seasonal, thoughtful and nearly perfect.
The menu at Oak is laid out for dinners to share, featuring over a dozen small plates, a handful of salads and then a few larger plates if you are in the mood for more. A standout was the crispy farm egg atop shredded chicken confit and roasted wild mushrooms on toast. The dish was served similar to an open face sandwich with the mushrooms and chicken being the star attractions. I could have done without the crispy egg though, as it was an unnecessary addition to an already savory dish. Another favorite was the hamachi crudo; thinly sliced yellow-tail served with a punchy yet not too acidic passion fruit vinaigrette, fresno chili and fresh mint. The balance of texture and the subtle flavors of each ingredient were spot on. There was also just the slightest amount of crushed salt on the fish which really made the ingredients sing. Oak missed the mark with their pan roasted sea scallops as they had nearly no flavor and the curried almonds, cauliflower and speck ham never came together on the plate as a uniformed dish. I also felt this one was considerably under-seasoned, leaving me longing for some s+p on the table.
(the bar at Oak / menu / the oak wood burning grill)
As I mentioned before, Oak has an incredible oak grill; it pumps out grilled short ribs, roasted chickens and braised veggies that the servers guide diners to try. Yet, after hearing these dishes take nearly 30 minutes to cook, we went in a different direction. I am a complete sucker for fresh pasta so I could not have been happier that we ordered the taleggio and ricotta stuffed ‘agnolotti’ pasta with eight-hour braised beef short ribs and crispy sunchokes. ‘Agnolotti’ translates to little cloud or purse which makes complete sense as it is one of the most delicate pastas I’ve had. The braised beef had amazing flavor, you could honestly taste the mirepoix, thyme, red wine and stock that went into the beef. Ryan said this dish would be part of his ‘last meal’ it was so good and I have to agree with him.
My overnight in Boulder had many highlights but I must say dinner at Oak at Fourteenth takes the cake. The restaurant was run like a well-oiled machine; turning out food that is worth of the credits they have been given in the culinary world but still managing to be approachable. I know I will be heading back soon, even if it is just for the agnolotti and braised short ribs.