What: Au Feu Brasserie
Where: 81 South Pennsylvania Street
When: Open Monday to Saturday from 16 to 22
For more info: Visit aufeubrasserie.com
What we saw: Partly motivated by the proliferation of hot chicken in Denver over the past year, restaurateur Jared Leonard made a switch, closing his Budlong Hot Chicken outpost and giving it a French-Montreal makeover. Just over a month after frying its last chicken, the place reopened on January 13 as Au Feu, a concept that was originally launched at Zeppelin Station in 2018, but closed there the following year.
While traveling through Montreal with his wife, Amanda, who is from Canada, Leonard was “particularly inspired by restaurants like Joe Beef and Au Pied du Cochon,” he says, but his full vision for Au Feu did not fit well in a food hall. The location north of West Washington Park, next to Uncle and across the street from Carmine’s on Penn, gave him the opportunity to fully bring his idea to life.
The result is a dark, elegant space filled with comfortable velvet sofas and art deco touches reminiscent of Paris in the 1920s. Unlike at the Zeppelin Station iteration of Au Feu, the menu goes beyond the Montreal-style smoked beef sandwich that was the main feature there (though still available for $ 17).
The list includes French classics like salad Lyonnaise ($ 17), clams ($ 18), steak fries ($ 31) and coq au vin ($ 24), along with cheese and charcuterie choices and the Canadian favorite poutine ($ 13), which can be increased with an optional smoked meat or foie gras add-on.
Rich foie gras also pops up in a tag on a dish that has become famous at Au Pied du Cochon: canned duck ($ 36). Duck and foie sous-vide are prepared in cans and served at the table. At Au Feu, the presentation is currently sans can, but includes tender duck and foie gras served over a celeriac puree.
Also high points for tenderness are the short rib bourguignon ($ 37) with pearl onions, carrots, mushrooms and lardon over a parsnip puree – a warming, comforting dish that goes perfectly with a cold night and a glass of red wine.
Even if you are not a wine expert, sommelier Jeroen Erens, who has worked at Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Europe, can guide you through the entire French wine list, which includes eight glass options and 65 bottles along with a selection of Cognac, Armagnac and eau de vie as well. Parisian cocktails.
What surprised us: The seat. Almost every table is low and surrounded by plush chairs and sofas that make it seem like you are eating in a (very smart) friend’s living room. The effect is a meal that feels less like a formal dining experience and more like a casual dinner party.
When everyone in your group leans in to grab bites, the conversation flows freely, and in between Santa you can sit back, relax and be lulled by other guests’ talk and sip of wine. In fact, the comfort-first seat design basically asks you to order one more glass of wine – which you should, because we all deserve a restful respite in a room as inviting and indulgent as this.