Coohill has not a drop of French blood in him, but when it comes to food, he’s in sync with the culture. “French cooking is about very complex techniques, and it’s always been about farm-to-table,” he said. “You must know the authentic part, the real way of making the dishes. Don’t go to short cuts.” And, yes, Julia Child’s cookbook is a valid way to learn. “It’s one of the first books I read,” he said.
Denver foodies lucked out when Tom and his wife Diane moved to Denver from Atlanta and opened Coohills three years ago. Together the pair has established Coohills as a trendy hotspot and one of the most authentic places in Denver to experience French cuisine. Our adventure began at the chef’s counter where the affable Tom explained each dish of our five-course tasting menu ($100 with wine pairings) and interjected engaging commentary along the way. We started with a patty of pure crabmeat, sans mayo or breadcrumbs diluting the taste or texture accompanied by Champagne tarragon sauce. Then came a heavenly Cape Cod scallop, resting on a little cloud of carrot salad surrounded by a delicately sweet coconut sauce dotted with caviar. Sweet and juicy compressed watermelon squares starred in a light summer salad. Sustainably farmed salmon from Nova Scotia—crispy on the outside and butter-soft on the inside—was matched with bits of red bell pepper and corn (produce is seasonal and local) and topped with beurre blanc sauce. My main dish was Red Bird chicken cooked sous vide—so tender I could cut it with a fork. The pièce de résistance was the traditional Marjolaine, a decadent four-layer chocolate hazelnut concoction. Tom proudly told us this was the (secret) original recipe from Fernand Point, the father of modern French cuisine who named his creation after his favorite mistress.
The couple worked closely with designers for two years to create the perfect venue for a restaurant, both functionally and aesthetically. Anchored by a large open kitchen and patisserie separating the bar from the main dining area, the modern space feels crisp, spacious and bright. There’s a room for private parties (Diane’s forte), a wine display and a community table under a chandelier fashioned from cabernet vines. Floor-to-ceiling windows and a west-facing patio afford killer sunset views of the mountains, and an old railroad trestle overlooking Cherry Creek is the site for their summer concerts in LoDo.
When You Go
1400 Wewatta St., Denver
Mon.-Thur.: 5:00-9:00 p.m.
Fri.-Sat.: 5:00-10:00 p.m.
Sun.: Open for private events only
BIO: Claudia Carbone is an award-winning journalist who contributes regularly to Colorado Expression as well as other magazines and websites.