Exclusive first look: Old Major, Justin Brunson's "elevated farmhouse cuisine" restaurant, is now open in Highland
All photos by Lori Midson
On Saturday night, as I studied the menu at Old Major, I nearly burst into tears. At one point, some time later, I did exactly that, right after my first taste of foie gras; there would be more liberal shavings of that exquisite foie on the cassoulet, which hinted at a "foie surprise." And more sappy tears of joy that followed.
And, indeed, Old Major, the Highland restaurant that chef Justin Brunson has spent months putting together with an undisputed dream squad of cooks and chefs, bartenders and wine geeks and front-of-the-house professionals, is a restaurant that's striving to be a confluence of unassailable cooking (with gorgeous compositions to match) in a striking setting that's neither too pretentious nor too casual with service that's as refined and graceful as an orchestrated ballet -- but without the snoot.
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On Sunday, the public, for the first time, was privy to what I was: an exhaustive labor of love, an unbending reverence for blood, sweat and tears. Brunson's "elevated farmhouse" menu, which is executed in a show-stopping open kitchen that ballyhoos some of the most enviable equipment you've ever laid eyes on -- and could easily double as a Hollywood movie set -- is separated into five categories: Small plates, The Farmer, The Butcher, The Monger and Sides.
It's pointed, confident, and reads like a culinary geek-speak love letter, and when put into action, results in a royal procession of artistically astounding dishes that defy superlatives. Brunson's lobster pot pie? Ethereal. The dominoes of pan-seared foie gras splayed over an apple whiskey-infused pie crust, comprised of duck fat, and layered with apples and candied almonds? You'll fight over this like competitive wrestlers. The braised French lentils accompanying the wood-grilled sturgeon, with its milky-white flesh and fluttering pencil shavings of foie, should be bottled and sold for bundles of green, and that lobster pot pie, punctuated with fennel and bobbing with claw and tail meat, will assuredly put to rest the myth that Denver can't do justice to the sea. Even the pretzel bread, presented on Saturday with a real, honest-to-God mustard butter, is enough to send you soaring.
And so do the cocktails, fashioned by a bar team that's seemingly incapable of faltering, and given the bold names behind the schtick -- Brian Melton (TAG, ChoLon), Ryan Conklin (Euclid Hall), Michael McGill (Osteria Marco), Melissa Durant (Green Russell), Courtney Wilson (Williams & Graham) and Jonathan Greschler (Wild Catch, Fuel Cafe) -- it's no wonder. The cocktails, whether it's the Mustache Rye, with Averna, Montenegro and Leopold's apple whiskey, or the bartender's choice -- in my case, a whiskey smash made with Nardini, lemon, simple syrup, fresh mint and Johnny Drum bourbon, and chilled with hand-carved ice -- are poetic.