Chef Duy Pham returns to Denver to open Epernay, a new sous-vide restaurant and raw bar downtown
Back before we had rock star chefs strutting their gimmicks on the Food Network, Denver had Duy Pham, who first made a (big) name for himself as the ridiculously young chef of the long-departed Tante Louise. He followed that illustrious gig with stints at Opal on Ninth Avenue, a restaurant called Kyoto Asian Fusion that opened in Littleton and went the way of Southwestern cuisine not long after, and then he became the exec at Aqua, a short-lived restaurant in the Beauvallon.
He did time at other Denver hot spots (in the day), including Flow, the former restaurant in the Jett Hotel, and then, in 2008, he left Denver behind...for Pueblo, which isn't exactly a culinary breeding ground, but when Pham opened Restaurant Fifteen Twenty-One, a contemporary American restaurant steeped in classic French technique, he put the steel city on the food map, generating rafts of accolades from here, there and everywhere.
But a few months ago, Pham shuttered his Pueblo restaurant, and now he's back in Denver, where he'll open Epernay, a raw bar and sous-vide concept near the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, at 1080 Fourteenth Street. "The time was right to close my restaurant in Peublo, and I wanted to get back to Denver -- to my roots -- and this is a project that I've contemplated doing for over a year," says Pham, adding that the concept "is Japanese in theory and technique and modern American in flavors and presentations."
Sixty percent of the menu, he notes, will be raw, and 40 percent of the board will be cooked, but he'll use the sous-viding method to sear, roast and steam his proteins -- and nothing, he stresses, will be fried or grilled. "It's taken me months and months to develop the menu, but it's my menu, and the owners and investors have allowed me complete freedom with the food, and there's nothing common, nothing plain Jane and nothing ordinary on this menu," promises Pham, who's spent the last few weeks treating friends to a sneak peek of some of his dishes
"It's all about the art -- the art of poaching, the art of cutting fish, the art of sous-viding and the art of technique," explains Pham, who insists that sous-viding isn't used nearly enough in restaurants, or, for that matter, at home. "It's the purest, most accurate technique out there to get the most natural form of cooking, and I'm kinda in love with it," he confesses. "I want to do healthy food, where everything shines with pure flavors, and there's nothing better than sous-viding to achieve that."