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Thursday, April 21,2011

Culinary ambition in north Boulder

By Clay Fong

Featuring impressive Flatirons vistas and an organic design scheme with local stone accents that complements the view, north Boulder’s Restaurant 4580 has ambitions that exceed those of a humble neighborhood joint. Selections such as lobster mac and cheese, and the adult ice cream float featuring premium beer, indicate a kitchen reaching beyond the ordinary. Additionally, since the owner’s family experiences gluten sensitivity, many dishes are also available in gluten-free iterations.

At both lunch and dinner, the menu is divided into small plates, soups, salads, burgers and entrees. Entrees range from house-made pasta with red sauce to formidable duck confit cassoulet. Consigliere Keith and I sought out a hearty lunch to kick off the work week, and 4580’s offerings appeared to be positioned to satisfy our needs.

Lunch started strong with a $4 plate of frites paired with twin dips of ketchup and pesto aioli. This heaping helping of spuds artfully melded salt, crunch and fluffy potato interior. I could have eaten these morsels all day, accompanied, perhaps, by an appropriate frosty beverage. Our other starter was the $8 lamb brochettes, garnished with a subtle curry aioli. Lamb is easy to mess up by over- or under-cooking; this trio of chunky meat medallions was cooked with just the right amount of char on the outside, complemented by a dusting of smoked paprika. Inside, the meat was properly pink and rare, while retaining the proper level of doneness, distinct from ungulate sashimi.

On paper, the $14.95 North Broadway Paella of mussels, salmon, chorizo sausage, hot pickled peppers, mussels, salmon, chicken and rice sounded appealing. Unfortunately, the execution didn’t live up to expectations, as this Spanish classic was dogged by watery rice and vague flavors. I wanted very much to like this dish, but the balance was thrown off by an excess of pepper brine and bland sausage. The chicken was the high point, with a tender consistency and clean taste well above that of supermarket poultry.

Keith fared better with his choice, the $12.95 steak sandwich. While Philly purists may scoff at this selection, 4580’s version successfully straddled the dividing line between cheap East Coast special and haute cuisine interpretation. While this sandwich retained the classic garnishes of caramelized onion and roasted pepper, the remaining ingredient swaps were decidedly for the better.

Gone were the traditional paper-thin top round slices, replaced by thicker and higher quality slices of steak. In lieu of Cheese Whiz, the kitchen reached back to this grinder’s 1930s roots by featuring white cheddar cheese. The finishing touch was a dab of horseradish aioli that added a degree of pep and complexity. Topping off the proceedings was a generous side of the addictive fries, which Keith happily devoured.

With the exception of the paella, our meal was solid. The small plate starters were above reproach, and the sandwich delivered on its promise. Ambition is a good thing, but perhaps the kitchen may want to reel in its approach with respect to the paella. Most restaurants, including 4580, offering this dish opt for a Mediterranean-inspired version with plenty of seafood. In a place like Colorado, a better alternative may be to offer a non-seafood interpretation with local chicken and pork. As the weather warms up, offering a spring vegetable version may also be an improvement consistent with the level of 4580’s best work.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com


Clay’s Obscurity Corner Paella possibilities

In addition to seafood paella, the Valencian interpretation of this dish is a Spanish cuisine standard-bearer. Some argue that deviation from a basic recipe of vegetables and snails results in something other than the traditional dish from Valencia. However, other recipes with a Valencian name take a more inclusive approach with the addition of such ingredients as chicken and rabbit. But perhaps Colorado chefs interested in local ingredients would be best served by dishing out the Campesina version, the paella of La Mancha. The Campesina is free of seafood, and combines chicken and pork, and on some occasions, beef.

Restaurant 4580 4580 Broadway #D-1 Boulder, 303-448-1500

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