What had been the deliciously swanky Eden is now the deliciously swanky 13 Pure. Not much has changed in terms of its neon-lit elegance, highlighted by leather couches and the like, except the white-tablecloth seating that's whisked away each night after the clock strikes 9 to make room for usual downtown club activities.
Scott Collman and Michael Laughlin, owners as of mid-January, have opted to bring fine dining into a space as well-suited for creative food as it is for sleek martinis. The place already had the look; re-branding to let the public know they've got good eats remains the biggest challenge.
Collman and Laughlin lured chef David Sciple back home to Colorado from Miami to lead their kitchen. Sciple's menu is diverse, interesting and plenty smug, what with its lack of conjunctions and detail. For instance, if you, like my dining mate, want the filet mignon ($23) from the "epicurean trophies" section, know only that it comes "appropriately adored [sic] with starch, veggies and garni," and that they "kick it." (With a char finish, indeed.) Nothing on this menu is "kissed by lemons" or anything froofy like that.
When you need to know something for instance, that your delectable Colorado trout ($17, possibly from Idaho, according to our friendly and attentive server) is served with lump crab imperial and a beurre blanc the menu will say it. The fun part about sparse explanation: lots of surprises. Leaps of faith during this visit brought a superb, lightly oiled angel hair coleslaw ($5) salad and the divine fricassee of wild mushrooms ($7) in a too-rich-to-finish Madeira cream sauce over seared spinach.
On an initial Saturday night visit, during which we were the only diners, we began with a light and tasty beef carpaccio ($9) and large bowl of littleneck clams ($11) in a "liquored and steamed" broth so good I wanted to bathe in it. A breast of pheasant ($19), moist and tender over egg fettuccine flavored by roasted shallots, followed for my friend. Though pleased, he couldn't match my enthusiasm for my "Pick Up Sticks" ($15) entre from the mid courses/small entres section.
It's a choose-your-own-proteins dish: From salmon, tuna, beef, lamb and pork, I selected the first three. They each arrived grilled and skewered (hence the name) over colorful, flavorful accoutrements with a fun presentation. The mini sides ranged from a sweet red onion relish to a seaweed salad. The meats were delicious; I can't help but imagine the full potential of this dish were they flash-seared rather than cooked through.
Dessert brought the only semi-disappointment, when the chocolate banana baked Alaska ($9) and Sacher torte ($7, named for a famous hotel in Vienna where it's served) each proved a little more gourmet in appearance than in flavor. Not bad, just not on par with the rest of the meal's quality. 13 Pure only stumbled otherwise on minor points, such as spongy rather than crispy waffle fries with the second visit entres.
Overall, Sciple more than adequately demonstrates his abilities in the kitchen, leaving me anxious to try his scallops, duck and pasta, among other dishes. An abbreviated lunch menu complete with sandwiches also started just this week. Even if you generally steer clear of nightclubs, don't shy from 13 Pure; the food's too good to miss.