New on the block: Winter 2020 dining heats up in Aspen
By all accounts, Aspen is a great escape. And this winter brings myriad new restaurants to feel transported to another world. Here are the recent openings — with a few yet unveiled — that reinvigorate our dining scene with flavors of Northern Italy, Germany, the Amalfi Coast, coastal New York, China, Mexico and more. Cheers, to a delicious 2020!
OLLIE’S EAST WEST KITCHEN / BOK CHOY
Opens: “Soon,” says co-owner David Roth.
Location: 308 S. Hunter St. (formerly Little Ollie’s)
Origin story: Chef-owner Frank Lu revamped Jing (formerly Asie) in late 2017. Now he’s transformed his Little Ollie’s with Roth into a virtually unrecognizable casual eatery.
Feels like: A bright, minimalist Asian joint in another city.
Go for: Juicy dumplings — at least nine kinds steamed or with “crispy bottom,” including shrimp shumai; Cantonese har gow; and soup dumplings.
Stay for: Entrées of “the usual suspects” such as General Tso’s chicken, orange chicken and Mongolian beef made with fresh, organic ingredients, plus salmon, noodles, Japanese maple-glazed “Krack Chicken” in a waffle bowl, and Lu’s sure-to-woo kale spring roll. Most items $10 or less; none top $20.
Tasty: The sparkling kitchen’s new China wok system and steamers join brand-new staff, six of whom speak Chinese only.
olliesaspen.com (still in development)
Opened: Dec. 20
Location: 219 E. Durant Ave. (new Dancing Bear luxury residences)
Origin story: The imagined haunt of an alpine hostess, Resi, popular in Bavarian folklore, Almresi Aspen harks to homonymous properties in Vail (since 2016) and Germany.
Feels like: A milkmaid’s sanctuary in the Black Forest awash in reclaimed barnwood with embroidered window treatments, carved wooden hearts and plaid curtains that match traditional staff garb made by Munich Oktoberfest’s official fashion brand.
Go for: Romantic ambience and comforting German schnitzel, fondue, rösti, and glüwein, oh my!
Stay for: Herbal schnapps and apfelstrudel, bitte!
Save this seat: At the central wooden farmhouse table with cowhide high-back chairs, cowbells and dairy pails strung overhead.
Tasty: Look for the vintage Morris Minor 1000 saloon car parked out front and packed for a European ski picnic.
THE SNOW LODGE
Opens: Dec. 26
Location: Looker’s right of Gondola Plaza (formerly Shlomo’s)
Origin story: “It’s like taking the deck we have in the summer and transporting it here, to snow,” says Jayma Cardoso, also owner of the Hamptons’ hipster Surf Lodge, next door to Grey Lady in Montuak, New York (sibling of Mr. Grey Aspen).
Feels like: A swank 1970s mountain den as envisioned by celebrated Montuak designer Bob Melet (owner of Melet Mercantile, a half-mile from the Surf Lodge for 12 years). See: vintage ski equipment, toboggans, disco balls, a handmade retro-logo ski hat wall covering, classic downhill films on projector, and haute retail enclave hawking Chanel, Moncler and more.
Go for: Craveable, hearty après-ski snacks by chef Robert Sieber: Swiss Gruyère or vegan fondue; flatbreads; French onion soup; a wagyu burger or vegan Impossible burger. Composed dinner plates might include butternut risotto, truffled pasta and salt-baked potatoes with smoked Colorado river trout, crème fraiche and Long Island’s Pearl Street caviar.
Stay for: Free shows produced by Belly Up Aspen (electro duo Bob Moses, Dec. 30; Sofi Tukker, TBA)
Save this seat: Indoors by the leather trunk-turned-DJ booth beneath Snurfer-evolution wall art; outside on sheepskins by the “igloo.”
Tasty: “We do a lot of lobster rolls (at the Surf Lodge) — almost 1,000 a week! — so we’ll do one Connecticut-style, with warm, drawn, lemongrass butter, as a special,” says chef Sieber, who has spent time cooking in Asia, Mexico and Korea.
CONCA DEL SOGNO AT CHEFS CLUB
Opened: Dec. 15
Location: Inside the St. Regis Aspen Resort
Origin story: Following a residency last winter at Chefs Club New York, the summertime Amalfi Coast restaurant decamped to Aspen.
Go for: Spaghetti alla Nerano (traditional of its namesake fishing village); whole branzino baked in salt, carved in the open kitchen, then delivered tableside.
Stay for: Pistachio profiteroles and signature sgroppino, a frosty cocktail of lemon sorbet, vodka, prosecco and mint.
Save this seat: The fireside table.
Tasty: The name translates loosely to “Bay of Dreams.”
Opened: Dec. 20
Location: 216 S. Monarch St. (formerly Rustique Bistro)
Origin story: “We wanted to create something more refined, with an emphasis on seafood and prime meats, shared family style,” says Gretchen Leary, who also runs 6-year-old Acquolina with Luigi Giordani.
Feels like: A soothing, modern seaside spot in Cinque Terre, thanks to clean lines in imported Italian gray marble, aqua glass wave tile, mosaic pebble stone, smoked-glass sconces and sleek cement flooring.
Go for: Bright, creative crudo, tartare, ceviche, and carpaccio — “almost like an Italian take on sushi, using modern flavors,” Leary says.
Stay for: Rotisserie-roasted lamb and whole fish, succulent meats, classic pasta and side dishes with a twist.
Save this seat: Inside the sleek, subterranean private dining room/wine cellar for 24.
Tasty: Translated as “two hands,” Duemani breathes craftmanship, from custom walnut seating to creative cocktails, imported artisan olive oil, and Duemani wine from coastal Tuscany (plus French, Spanish, and domestic producers).
The brick Victorian cottage on the corner of Hopkins and Monarch soon becomes BEAR DEN ASPEN, a café and bakery serving coffee, homemade baked goods and simple breakfast and lunch fare until 5 p.m.
- JOONAS, a nighttime wine and tapas bar offering globally inspired shared plates on a monthly rotating menu, anticipates a January opening downstairs in the former Cooking School of Aspen. beardenaspen.com, joonasaspen.com
In December CAMPO DE FIORI’S COMMUNITY ROOM opened in an expanded space with a long communal table, wine racks, custom cabinetry and charming Tuscan mural. A separate, locally priced menu serves Roman cacio e pepe, chicken Milanese, and bistecca Barolo for à la carte dining or private parties of up to 40 guests. 205 S. Mill St., campodefiori.net
- After its first summer, Southwestern bistro TATANKA is finding its groove. Chef Corey Smith’s new menus for lunch, dinner, happy hour and weekend brunch showcase even more vegetarian and vegan comfort dishes alongside meats and fish. Downstairs come midwinter, THE RANCH ROOM will feature more refined dining, plus a charcuterie and raw bar. 308 E. Hopkins Ave., tatankaaspen.com
Forced to close when its old building sold in November 2017, ASPEN OVER EASY returns to downtown, now as a pop-up “breakfast club” inside Scarlett’s event space. Expect familiar favorite brunch staples, plus fresh juice and screwmosas served by original staff. 515 E. Hopkins Ave., second floor.
While a four-course meal might seem out of place at HOPS CULTURE, the introduction of LE PETIT CHEF is just the ticket to change minds. Billed as a “3D multisensory dining experience,” each limited seating features a miniscule animated chef on adventure among four courses including lobster tail and bouillabaisse. HOPS owner Alex Cesario owns exclusive rights in Colorado. 414 E. Hyman Ave., hopsculture.com, lepetitchef.com
Chef SUSIE “SPICE IT UP” JIMENEZ fires up MARBLE BAR with one featured dish — Indian curry, Mexican posole or tacos al pastor, Spanish paella, perhaps a Sunday Bloody Mary bar — daily during après-ski, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Entertainment might include movies, stand-up comedy, chess or rumored installation of Marble Distilling cofounder Connie Baker’s mechanical bull. Hyatt Grand Aspen, 415 E. Dean St., marbledistilling.com
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April has been decreed, for the first time, as “Sonoma County Wine Month” by the vintners and it is a righteous idea, one that should have legs long into the future.