“It’s the freshest bread you’ll ever have,” says the waiter, dropping a small cast-iron pot overflowing with risen dough onto the table. “Don’t eat it yet, though. You will see it later.
So the meal starts at Margot, the Sunday-only tasting menu concept launched by chef Justin Fulton in September. The dinners, which include ten courses (plus a few surprises, like bread) for $105 per person, take place at Coperta, chef Paul C. Reilly’s Italian restaurant at 400 East 20th Avenue. An optional wine pairing can also be added.
For Fulton, who grew up in Breckenridge and cooked on the East Coast, stopping in Michigan before returning to Denver, this venture is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant in his home country. .
The indefinite stay at Coperta is the perfect way to show off his vision for what he calls “contemporary, technically driven, seasonally inspired American cuisine” – and hopefully a stepping stone to his own brick and mortar. But for now, it’s also a great option for a memorable evening.
When Margot debuted, Fulton focused on showcasing late summer’s bounty. Now, however, the menu has shifted to “fall and everything after,” with ingredients like gooseberries, koginut squash, and Jerusalem artichokes from Esoterra Culinary Garden.
While ten dishes seems like a lot, the dishes are cleverly proportioned, starting with a trio of one-bite snacks each – beets, duck and oyster, each offering a different texture. Servers explain dishes in more detail as they arrive at the table, but part of the fun is not knowing too much before the meal begins.
The menu, presented on arrival, lacks detail. So when a plate of Parisian gnocchi appears with scarlet leaves strewn across the top, as if it had just been brought under a changing maple tree, a little magic is added to the experience.
Then the bread reappears, baked to a golden brown and ready to be slathered in lightly smoked butter with urfa pepper. The pace is there, as the dishes come and go without too much of a break between dishes, and there’s no feeling of being rushed.
The seared rack of lamb is the heaviest dish of the evening, and also one of the most memorable. The meat is perfectly cooked and seasoned, served with a charred portion of castelfranco radicchio, a traditional winter vegetable from Italy.
A refreshing cucumber and frozen yogurt granita that cleanses the palate precedes the final act, a pear tatin with brown bread ice cream. All the while, diners – mostly date couples – chat happily as Fulton’s team and the chef himself prepare one course after another.
While the food is fine-dining, the vibe is far from tense, making it an indulgent yet relaxing way to wrap up a weekend in Denver.