Hip as can be and pretty as a picture, the Springs’ new boutique hotel, Kinship Landing, has added more than just a big mural to the New South End. It has also given Chef Brian Blasnek and co-owner/Chef Jay Gust a café and bar for serving food that sits at a crossroads between healthy fast casual, global eclectic and a practical higher-end hotel food option. It’s dubbed Homa, which means “human” in the constructed language Esperanto. And we would have to work harder than hell to imagine a concept and menu more fitting for the space Homa occupies.
The vibe’s something unique, make no mistake. A series of booths and long tables near the entrance makes ample use of huge, west-facing windows to illuminate a space defined by natural-finish woods and a dark-light interplay between forest greens and creamy off-whites. Even when it’s busy, the space feels almost breezy.
The “main” café area hosts ample seating and headspace above the U-shaped bar, which includes a small refrigerated section of grab-and-go bites and drinks. Behind, a sunny “Greenhaus” gives us the sense we should be dining amongst ornamental plants that aren’t typically seen in Colorado. Outdoor dining spaces and community tables offer smart, fun choices for a dining experience that is both chic and contemporary.
While it’s easy to run through every synonym for “hip” on Thesaurus.com in trying to capture the vibe of this (and many other) newer Springs eateries, our visit to Homa showed us some things to celebrate without even a touch of irony. The food and drinks are, uniformly, good. Better than good, really, and moreover, the menu illustrates what a deft hand can do with international flavors.
Given our soft spot for hand meals, it should be no surprise that Blasnek and Gust’s array of hand pies caught our attention. We order two of the five options, sadly not including the Nepalese dumpling-inspired Momo pies, as other customers had cleaned out the day’s supply before our visit. We find plenty to enjoy in the veggie hand pie, which comes full of chickpeas, potatoes, carrots, onions and peppers, with Swiss cheese holding things together and just a little black garlic aioli, which we also get a cup of for dipping. Between the chickpeas and the peppers, we get a flavor vibe that’s more Mediterranean than Indian (our guess at the flavor profile), and we’re happy with the variety of textures in the perfectly cooked veg.
No surprise, the umami-AF aioli does wonders. We also enjoy the pie with a little drizzle of a less rich but no less savory cashew shoyu sauce, which we initially order to go with a hand pie dubbed The Wild.
However, its mix of venison, onion and cheese overpowers that more delicate sauce, needing no augmentation or adulteration to warrant our highest honor, a muttered “oh, fuck that’s good,” upon first bite into its flavorful, not-at-all-gamey meat and funky cheese combo.
Structurally, both are triumphs as well: The buttery, flaky pastry springs no leaks with either pie, though it’s admirably soft, all without dry fillings. Plus, they’re $7 or $7.50 apiece, and they’re each big enough for a meal all by themselves.
For an appetizer or passed side, we order Cauli Pop, fried, two-bite chunks of cauliflower served with lemongrass sambal aioli for dipping. Flavorwise, the pops are sauce vessels, and they give us a kind of buffalo chicken vibe, but the subtle lemongrass herbaceousness and the complexity of the sambal make it that little bit more interesting without being totally unfamiliar.
On to entrées — we pick the Club Scout sandwich, which puts a well-tested combo of bacon, lettuce, avocado, turkey and tomato on griddled Japanese milk bread. The soft, enriched bread picks up flavor from the butter it was no doubt griddled in and serves the sandwich well overall. Side shoestring fries tick all boxes.
From the selection of bowls, we opt for the Mt. Rokko, which we get atop farro, sprouted lentils and quinoa instead of greens. Super tender miso-braised short rib has a savory flavor for days without overwhelming the flavor of the beef itself, which is great, and it goes well with shiitake mushrooms and Sesame Chili Crunch, which we note are basically sesame sticks — not at all a problem. A smattering of greens including a pinch of fennel makes for a fresh, filling, healthy bowl of food.
The bar program holds up to the quality of the food, offering an array of spirits and some fun house cocktails as well. A Garden Party, for instance, tastes like exactly what the name suggests, with Ford’s gin, cucumber water, lime, mint and fleur de sel (fancy sea salt) coming together in a fresh, spring-y burst of herbal flavors that play beautifully with the botanical notes in the gin.
Another gin drink, the Silent Lucidity, uses Jin Jiji gin made in the Goa state in India, which makes it an interesting compromise between a sour and an absinthe drink. On the nose, fennel and anise lead, but they cede taste bud territory to a complex, bitter and mouth-filling mix that shows a promising use of chickpea-derived aquafaba as more than just a vegan alternative to egg whites — we wager that’s responsible for the substantial mouthfeel of the drink. An Osaka Old Fashioned made with Mars Iwai Japanese whisky shows Japanese sensibility in its delicate subtlety, with umami-shiso bitters giving it the faintest twist that makes it a drink worth contemplating. Finally, the faint pineapple and cilantro in the Mexicali Blues mostly give way to bitterness and a major spice heat, though we wish for a little more sweet for the Tajín rim.
For dessert, don’t miss the scrappy cookie, which is a mix of five cookie doughs (we identify chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, peanut butter and white chocolate macadamia in ours) that makes each unique. Or, a skosh healthier, the Bubbly Fruit shows that eight minutes in high pressure CO2 in a whipped cream dispenser gives a selection of fresh fruit a fun fizzy texture that makes a fruit-and-whipped-cream dessert that little bit more interesting.
Speaking of the menu overall, not only is it executed with serious skill and know-how, it fits the Kinship Landing space perfectly and elevates the oh-so-hip vibe without feeling chintzy or forced. Our best to the chefs — now where are those hand pies?