Colorado bison tartare with chives, shallot, quail egg, balsamic reduction.(Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)
Some might argue that Denver needs another steakhouse like American politics needs another posturing gasbag.
But while we have long passed the satiation point on the latter, our appetite for top-shelf hooved protein, particularly the kind that goes “moo,” seems to remain at home on the range. And grill and oven.
Jordy Lee works the raw bar at the Guard and Grace restaurant in downtown Denver. (Phoros by Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)
Which brings us to Guard and Grace, Troy Guard’s latest outing. The chef-restaurateur has already pleased Mile High palates with TAG and its sister room,TAG Raw Bar, in LoDo. We chow on his burgers at TAG Burger Barin Congress Park.
And get a fix of Mexican street food at Los Chingones, his taquería near Coors Field, and desserts at SugarMill next door.
The dining area at Guard and Grace restaurant at 18th and California in downtown Denver.
Guard and Grace — Grace is Guard’s daughter — occupies a large room in downtown Denver’s CenturyLink Tower. The restaurant doesn’t exactly shout its presence, sitting far back from the street with only a small patio to catch the eye.
It is a sleek room, cool and almost austere, with a long bar whose cushy chairs are upholstered in burnt orange. There is not a hint of faux-Brit gentleman’s club that is the template for so many American steakhouses.
It is a place for deep wallets or generous expense accounts. Already drawing the power-suit set for lunch, where a juicy porchetta sandwich is popular, steak mavens are making it a dinner destination.
Prime bone-in rib-eye steak.
An attentive wait staff enhances the experience. While their menu knowledge seems encyclopedic, it is never pedantic.
Guard and Grace is a steakhouse, but the menu is open to other palates. There is a generous raw-bar selection and nearly 20 charcuterie and cheese options. The charcuterie station is anchored by a bright red meat slicer and a large ham haunch; the hog leg could not look any more enticing if it was wearing fishnet stockings.
Three visits turned up an array of dishes that were generally winners.
Agnolotti, the crescent-shaped “priest cap” pasta, was an al dente mix of lamb pancetta, warm goat cheese and artichokes in a brown butter sauce. Chopped chilled lobster was a small miracle mixed with avocado and grapefruit, smart contrasts of sweet and acidic.
Silky bison tartare was boldly seasoned with shallots and a quail yolk, accompanied by apricot mustard and potato chips. Less of a wow was the octopus. Wood-charred tentacles were tender, but off-puttingly large.
While the menu offers tuna, cod, trout and short ribs — plus a chicken enchilada with a hand-to-the-forehead $24 price tag — beef is showcased.
Three types are available, all from Colorado ranches: Prime, the highest grade; a slightly less marbled Angus; and “grass-fed local,” raised sans hormones and antibiotics.
A Kansas City prime cut, carved from the tender short loin of a steer, was an 18-ounce ode to the cow it came from. Its $46 tag was par for the prime offerings, though there was a $20 filet mignon if you were OK with a 4-ounce cut.
The seared KC strip’s crust was a blast of texture and flavor, cooked medium rare. The knife moved through it with the ease of a well-oiled trombone slide, and the beef flavor was eye-crossingly good.
A 4-ounce grass-fed filet mignon didn’t offer the same level of flavor, due in part to the leanness of that cut. We took the “Oscar” style upgrade of crab topping, and can’t say it was worth the $16 add-on charge, which brought a $22 steak to $38.
As to sides: Grilled shishito peppers and creamed spinach-Swiss chard were winners. Potato dishes lagged. Mashers were rather bland, and what was touted as a loaded baked potato came with cheddar and chives, but no sour cream or butter.
That is not departing from the usual incarnation of a loaded potato, , it’s just under-delivering. Still, at $4 they can’t be accused of the sort of side-dish gouging many of their competitors engage in.
Guard and Grace offers a deep wine list and a staff that is quick to advise pairings and offer comparative pours. A Guado rosé was a $10 pleasure. So was a $9.50 Cotes du Rhone. Cocktails are well crafted, including a classic Blood and Sand made with scotch whisky and blood orange juice.
One caveat: the music. Too often it was light-jazz banality, the sort that would make Kenny G look like late-period Coltrane.
Guard and Grace opened in March. It hasn’t completely rewritten the Mile High steakhouse playbook, but competitors could take some cues from it.
Owner and staff should both be proud.
William Porter: 303-954-1877, wporter@ denverpost.com or twitter.com/williamporterdp
GUARD AND GRACE
Contemporary steakhouse. 1801 California St., 303-293-8500 guardandgrace.com
Atmosphere: A large room whose sleekness might be too austere for some.
Service: Exceptionally knowledgeable and attentive.
Beverages: Wine, beer and cocktails
Plates: Starters, $6-$16; entrees, $22-$46; prime steaks, $20-$48, plus a 6-ounce Kobe striploin for $60.