Another gem (this one with Iberian food) from the folks behind Rioja, a yummy Latin dim-sum joint, and a Boulder nod to New Mexican cuisine.
“Ultreia”—a word of greeting uttered along the Spanish pilgrim trail known as the Camino de Santiago—translates, from the Latin, roughly to “onward.” In Union Station, where a new Iberian “gastroteka” called Ultreia opened last December, it translates to tapas, pintxos, and an awe-inspiring gin program, one of the broadest anywhere in the city.
The restaurant’s main dining room, accessible from the street and the Union Station terminal, is outfitted with the kind of stylistic detail we’ve come to expect of its creators, Crafted Concepts, the group behind Rioja, Euclid Hall, Bistro Vendôme, and Stoic & Genuine. There’s a black granite bar, velvety red banquettes, accents of Portuguese tile, mezzanine and patio space, and a panoramic Dutch mural wrapping the restaurant’s walls and ceiling, enveloping diners in 360 degrees of Old World charm.
This last detail has nothing to do with Spain or Portugal, but that seems to fit the larger premise of Ultreia nonetheless: a loose, impressionistic approach to Iberian culture. In that spirit, chef Adam Branz offers some wonderful riffs on the region’s cuisine. The blistered shishito peppers ($9), tender and smoky, and ham croquettes ($7) are must-haves from the “bare hands” column of the tapas list; from the “tools required” side, the summer bean salad with jamón serrano and Palisade peaches ($10) stands out, as do the Yukon potatoes, served with jamón salsa brava, aioli, and octopus ($13). The pintxos—a Basque variation of Spain’s tapas—are plentiful and difficult to choose between, a problem that the chef ’s tasting menu ($36, available after 4 p.m.), composed of five courses, can easily remedy. If you’re in the mood for a large plate—intended for sharing—the hamachi collar ($31) pairs beautifully with a flight of sherry from the menu’s program of more than a dozen ($13), and the Portugese piri piri, a spicy chicken leg with cucumber and dill, adds some bracing heat ($18).
Whatever you do, don’t leave without sampling at least one of the 40-plus gins behind the bar. Hell, don’t stop there—try three or four. That’s the spirit of Ultreia, after all: Onward. —Andrew Weaver
SUPER MEGA BIEN
Latin American dim sum
If you’d rather sample a menu than order just one entrée, we’ve found your new spot. Dana Rodriguez’s Super Mega Bien, a Latin American dim sum eatery opened in June, serves Latin dishes on small plates, from a menu that encourages experimentation. “The inspiration came when Tony Maciag, one of our partners, was eating at State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, one of the first dim sum–style restaurants with non-Asian food,” says general manager Jake Riederer. “At Super Mega Bien, a group of four could try everything on the dim sum menu; a group of eight could try all that, plus get a few family-style items.”
The dim sum, or small plates, at Super Mega Bien includes up to 15 options of Latin fare ranging from $3 to $9 per dish. Opt for variations of dishes you’ve had before, like Cuban shredded beef with perfectly charred plantains, curry-like Brazilian coconut shrimp soup, and Yucatan-style ceviche with chips and tender octopus. Or get adventurous with Portuguese smoked halibut dip or a “wild card.” Good news for returning visitors (so, us): Up to half the menu changes weekly.
The family-style dishes serve three or more apiece, like the Spanish rice ($25), served in a cast-iron skillet with roasted vegetables and goat and Manchego cheese. And then there’s the cocktail menu, including a house-made gin-and-tonic section ($9 each). In short, we second the answer that Rodriguez’s line cook gives when asked, “¿Cómo estás?” It’s all super mega good. —Kendall Kostelic
Northern New Mexican
Inside the main dining room at Santo, the Northern New Mexican restaurant that opened in Boulder last November, three small wooden figurines—“santos,” Spanish for “saints”—occupy a row of niches along a blank wall, gazing out like sentinels over the establishment’s comfortable, minimalist interior. A leaflet identifies them as Pascual, patron saint of cooks; Francis, of animals and small children; and Jude, of lost causes.
Like everything else in Santo (including chef Hosea Rosenberg himself, who hails from Taos), these pieces of folk art are authentic representatives of the Land of Enchantment. The menu, which begins with the standards—salsas, sopapillas—forges into fresh territory with offerings like the trout tostada ($11), served with an airy avocado mousse, and the pork belly sopes ($9), neatly arranged on crisp, silver-dollar masa cakes and topped with red pepper jelly. For those lacking a firm stance in the great green-versus-red New Mexican chile debate, the Heirloom Blue Corn Enchiladas ($19) should satisfy: Santo serves them “Christmas-style,” with both colors represented. The menu’s great standout, however, is the Wood Oven Half Chicken ($22), prepared with Hazel Dell mushrooms and a mole rojo that tastes like it came straight from Oaxaca. Which, in fact, it did. The Santo team traveled to Mexico’s “land of the seven moles” to master traditional methods of preparing the complex sauce. With clean, pitch-perfect décor and more than 70 bottles of tequila and mezcal behind the bar, there’s little to critique in this cozy ode to our southern neighbors, and much to enjoy. Of all the saints presiding here, perhaps only Jude is out of place. Santo is no lost cause. —A.W.