In true gutters to glitz fashion the title of this post is complete hyperbole. Well, to be honest it is not even an overstatement. Actually that line from the Bard has no relevance whatsoever. Perhaps I just felt like writing a line of Victorian (or is it Jacobean?) English. Whatever the case may be, there is definitely something amiss with regards to my feelings for Bones.
On the one hand, this restaurant is everything that I look for in a dining experience. It is casual, and compact. The counter seating lets diners feed off the energy of the busy kitchen staff. And the simple decorations lend to an air of comfort. I like that tables are right on top of each other. I like that people crowd into the door and spill out onto the sidewalk trying to get a seat on busy Sunday night. I love the uncommon offerings- roasted marrow, and steamed buns with either suckling pig or pork belly. What I love perhaps more than any of this is that people whose culinary opinions matter the most to me have absolutely raved about this place.
On the other hand, with all of these factors pointing towards Bones being a Denver food lovers Mecca, how could I have left so underwhelmed?
Jamie and I headed to Bones for our anniversary dinner on a lovely March Sunday night. I had made a reservation, and was glad that I did since the place was hoppin’. Settled down at our table with an excitement that I haven’t had for a restaurant in a while. From the get go, our server was extremely attentive- checking in on us, wiping down the table, etc though he was a bit of a low talker. So, at times, it was difficult to make out what he was saying against the din of a busy room.
Started with some drinks (obviously). Jamie ordered a flight of four Sakes picked by our server three of which met with her approval, and I ordered a Kirin which, amazingly enough, had morphed into a Sapporo by the time that it arrived. Luckily for everyone in the restaurant, I am an equal opportunity beer drinker, and was not totally offended by this turn of events. And that, my friends, is where things took a turn for the disappointing.
We decided to start with three apps, then move onto a noodle bowl apiece since we figured the noodles should make for great next day eats. First up was an order of the Black Cod Tempura to which there was an added piece since it was the last order of the night. The tempura batter was nice and light, but the cod itself could have used a pat down before it was battered, and fried; it was bit soggy. Not the way I like my fried fish. Next was the Hamachi Tataki- excellent. What else can I say. The avocados were fresh, the tapenade a nice accompaniment, and the fish was perfect. Then came the Suckling Pig buns that I was so looking forward to. The pork was good, the buns were so-so, but the hoisin was as bad as nearly any sauce I’ve ever encountered. Not only did it overpower what could have been delectable pork, it was just the wrong flavor for that dish. I scraped as much as I could off, and added some sambal to make the last bun decently eatable.
By this point in the evening, I was ready for some of the well reviewed noodles! Ramen with poached lobster, and Udon with pork were delivered and we dove straight in. While the Ramen were good (how can anything with that much butter not be?) there was something missing. They were too rich with nothing to cut through with a touch of brightness. The Udon, oh sad Udon- while the noodles and broth were decent, the menu says “roasted pork” so I was hoping for some crispy bites. I got none of that. What I did get was a lump of pork that had a softer consistency then the noodles, and caused the dish to fall flat- one dimensional. Like the Ramen, it needed something else, something slightly disparate. But it had only one trick: soft, and uneventful.
In The Nasty Bits, Anthony Bourdain says, “Restaurants are supposed to be about the food, aren’t they? They’re supposed to be… well…fun”.
And that really gets down to the crux, doesn’t it? Restaurants should be about food, good food. Food prepared with passion and skill. Restaurants should be a brief respite from the toil of everyday life. That is, after all, the basis of this blog! Bones fits half of the bill with a fun, energetic atmosphere. The other half… well, I am left to wonder. I will give Bones another chance though. Hoping that (with more attention to detail) they can be the shining gem of Denver restaurants that I so hoped it would be.
“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”
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