Must-Try New Restaurant: Arcana in Boulder

2016 February 24
by David Schlichter
Arcana The Good Life Denver

The Oxford Greens from Arcana in Boulder

Boulder’s Arcana Restaurant opened just over a week ago, and it is VERY Good.

We’ve had the chance to visit lots of area restaurants shortly after they’ve opened, and they almost always have quite a few hiccups in the first few days of operation.  Servers may not be familiar with the whole menu, incorrect dishes might be served, timing can be off, etc.  We visited Arcana on the first Saturday it was open, though, and the food, the service, and the overall experience were all impeccable from start to finish–no hiccups whatsoever.

There are a lot of “New American” restaurants in Denver and Boulder these days, but Arcana restaurant takes a somewhat different approach to American cuisine.  Rather than focusing on what’s “new” for the future, Arcana creates dishes inspired by the country’s past.

“We fully believe that in years to come we will look back at this moment in our history and see it as the renaissance of American identity as it relates to food. In our exploration of American cuisine, Arcana will look to historic preparations and ingredients while honoring our own regionality.  Arcana will look to honor all of the influences of our past as a country to create a cuisine that is bold, creative, and unflinchingly American, in the truest sense of the word. Don’t be surprised to see influences from Western Africa, South America, and Native American traditions on the menu.  At Arcana we will never stop imagining how to exceed your expectations.”

Nearly everything at the restaurant is made from scratch, including the bitters the bar uses in its cocktails (which, by the way are delicious).   Fermenting, ember-roasting, and pickling are just a few of the techniques Arcana employs to create bold, unusual, and mouth-watering flavors.  The plating technique is beautiful, and you can tell that husband and wife owners Elliott and Annie Toan put an enormous amount of love into the crafting and execution every last detail of the restaurant.

One common pitfall that can cause new restaurants to experience growing pains when first launching is offering a large and complex menu right out of the gates.  Arcana avoided this temptation, though, opting instead to open with a focused (and delicious) ten-item dinner menu, with each dish executed to perfection.  In the coming weeks the restaurant will be adding several dishes to its menu and will eventually feature a new dish each night.

The Oxford Greens with pickled egg, ham, Aleppo chili, wild flower, and sumac was bright and refreshing.  The Shawnee Cake was the highlight of our night–a cornmeal based griddle cake was topped with easily the best crispy pork belly I’ve ever eaten in my life, fermented chili, green apple, and yogurt.  The Colorado Trout was tasty with fire carrot, carrot top pesto, crispy onion, chili, and buttermilk.  The Capped Pork Loin was excellent and perfectly salty, served with a mouth-watering pork sausage (made with house-made fermented chilis), lacinato kale, kabocha squash, and house-made crème fraîche.  For dessert, the carrot cake with maple, hibiscus, burnt tangelo, and ginger ice cream was absolutely divine–we only wish that there was more of it.  The same goes for the layer cake with brown butter, chocolate, compressed apple, whiskey, and quinoa ice cream.

It isn’t often that we go to Boulder just to dine out, but trust us when we say that Arcana is well worth the trip from Denver.  And if the restaurant was this Good on week one, we can’t wait to see what it will accomplish after a few weeks, months, and years of operation.  In the mean time, we are already trying to figure out when we can come back for seconds…

Arcana is located at 909 Walnut St. in Boulder.

Arcana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Good Life Denver is written by David Schlichter. To stay in the loop, like The Good Life Denver on Facebook and follow @thegoodlifeden on Twitter and @thegoodlifedenver on Instagram!

In addition to writing for The Good Life Denver, David works full-time as a Denver real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty Downtown, LLC. David helps his clients (ranging from sellers, to buyers, to seasoned investors) achieve their real estate goals. Contact David today for all of your Denver real estate needs. Direct: 720-440-2340

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