Choose Your Own (Food) Adventure 2

Wild Standard brings an exciting restaurant trend to Colorado

The dining out experience is in need of a shakeup. You choose a restaurant, read a menu, eat what you order, and go home. Sure, you (hopefully) get something better than what would have come out of your home kitchen and you save yourself the dishes, but the concept is the same whether you go to an Italian or modern American eatery.

Enter Wild Standard, the latest restaurant from one of Boulder County’s most celebrated chefs, Bradford Heap (Colterra, Salt). Wild Standard is a seafood restaurant, but it isn’t just any seafood restaurant. It’s an hors d’oeuvres party, an interactive dining experience, a choose-your-own food adventure waiting to unfold. Let me explain.

While it does have a short, traditional menu of small plates and main courses, the hook of Wild Standard is that the menu changes every day and is presented to diners visually via carts and trays circling the dining room. Dim sum devotees will be familiar with this ‘eye it before you buy it’ practice, but the fare at Heap’s new restaurant goes far beyond dumplings and buns.

On a recent visit, mussel burger sliders, ahi poke with tarot chips, an heirloom tomato and burrata salad, pan-seared halibut with potato puree, lobster gnocchi and grouper crudo with jalapeños and togarashi were just a small sampling of the options that were carried or wheeled by our table. Each night, depending on how buzzing the restaurant is, anywhere from 18 to 25 cart items will make their way from the kitchen to each table, all inspired by whatever seafood is flown in that day or whatever is growing in the garden.

Of course you don’t have to sample the daily creations, or even see them (but what’s the fun in that?). If you’d rather stick to the main menu, you simply flip over your oyster shell to signal that you’d like to skip out on the cart service. And you’d be forgiven, as the permanent menu, although small, is full of winners.

Start with the kaya toast, one of the best $5 you can spend. Kaya means ‘rich’ in the Malay language, and the sweetness of the coconut jam and creaminess of a crowning fried egg don’t disappoint. The Pok Pok chicken ($16) is a fantastic choice of main, even if it doesn’t come from the sea. The sweet and spicy East Asian flavors are spot on and enhanced by local greens and sweet basil.

But my favorite dishes of the night came from the carts. The flash-fried cauliflower over red curry sauce ($4) was crispy and well-seasoned, offering the right amount of spice and a new texture that proves cauliflower just might be the most versatile veggie out there.

The grouper crudo with jalapeños and togarashi ($12) was delicious. The lightness of the fish paired with the pepper’s heat and spicy umami flavor of the togarashi (a Japanese spice blend of chilies, sesame and seaweed) made for the perfect mouthful.

The drinks are also enticing and far-flung in terms of their inspiration. The Siren Call is a build-your-own exotic drink based around flavor profiles from three different regions. First you choose your region – from Pacific Northwest, China or India. I chose the Northwest’s blend of cherries and juniper – then the drink’s strength (no, low or heavy alcohol). Finally, you pick your favorite spirit, or hand it over to the bartender to choose a winning concoction for you. My bourbon mix was definitely winning, and at $8 not a bad deal in the world of overpriced craft cocktails.

Wild Standard’s menu and concept are so unique and interesting that it changes the way you eat. Their goal is to encourage people to eat differently, and they’re succeeding. With the tray and cart system I certainly tried things that, if on a traditional menu, I would have read over and passed on. (Grouper crudo? No, thank you.) Stop in and let them shake up your dining experience too.

Wild Standard

1043 Pearl St.

720.638.4800

WildStandard.com

Brunch, Lunch, Dinner