It’s inevitable that any time a national publication puts out a piece on the Boulder food scene, Pearl Street’s The Kitchen gets a shout-out. This eatery, along with three or four others, always gets the press, making out-of-towners wonder if there’s anywhere else worth visiting. However, it’s also true that The Kitchen definitely earns its media stripes.
The clean setting is set off by high ceilings and an airy feel that evokes a sunny European bistro. If you were a location scout picking a Boulder filming venue for a rom-com starring Julia Roberts (as opposed to Seth Rogen), this would be the spot. Indeed, most of the clientele resemble extras from a film featuring Roberts, as they exude a stylish casualness.
Self-described as a “community bistro,” The Kitchen prides itself on using sustainable, local ingredients like Long Farm pork, Monroe Farm veggies and Fox Fire lamb. CU classmate Kristin and I were impressed by the diverse lunch menu, which includes the slow-roast pork sandwich that left a deeply favorable impression on my last visit. Salads range from simple sides to entrees featuring main ingredients like crab, salmon and chicken. Small appetites will appreciate petite servings of fries and other starters, while the famished can enjoy full-bore entrees like steak frites.
Kristin began with the $6 tomato soup, a concoction that didn’t stray far from childhood bowls. The first taste was comforting and nostalgic, possessing creamy qualities. Letting it momentarily linger, it became clear this soup didn’t come out of a can with a couple of cherubic kids on it. A subtle acidity emerged, indicating the fresh produce provenance of this dish, and I came away understanding that this is how real tomato soup is supposed to taste.
A $6 starter of roasted beets, dusted with feta cheese, also possessed comforting familiarity. These had a reasonably soft texture, but with a whisper of crisp that telegraphed its farm-fresh origins. The beets’ subtle sweetness was subtly offset by the goat milk’s tanginess, resulting in a simple presentation that exceeded the canned versions of our youth.
The Kitchen offers up a different $10 quiche daily, and Kristin went for this special, which was freighted with bacon. The unbelievably light custard was unlike any I’ve ever experienced, and the eggy delicacy was finely balanced by the bacon’s smokiness. A side of simple green salad came impeccably dressed with the right measure of vinegar, and late-season arugula contributed a zingy contrast to the quiche’s richness.
The egg, bacon and greens that adorned my $12 duck salad were beyond reproach. The duck had a pleasantly complex — albeit salty — taste profile, and the egg was perfectly poached. However, as much as we enjoyed this light entrée, both Kristin and I wondered if it could have been improved by an additional element such as berries or citrus to temper the salt and mild acidity of the vinaigrette. I’d eat it again, but I was also left wondering how it could be elevated from the very good to the truly memorable.
Without question, The Kitchen excels at taking simple dishes such as beets and tomato soup and successfully highlighting their freshness and essential flavors. The art here is transforming the familiar into something entirely new, and this wholly justifies The Kitchen’s status as a media darling.
Clay’s Obscurity Corner A fine mess
For dessert, Kristin and I had the $8 Eton Mess, which is one of those peculiarly eccentric British desserts named for the college that’s churned out nearly 20 U.K. prime ministers. A variation on the trifle, which typically contains fruit, cream and spirit-soaked cake, The Kitchen’s Eton Mess is a light but decadent concoction of berries, Chantilly cream and meringues. While it’s unclear whether the original had berries or banana, it’s said the dessert was a popular item in the school’s tuck shop, or canteen. It’s also the traditional sweet at the annual cricket match between Eton and Winchester College.
The Kitchen 1039 Pearl St. Boulder 303-544-5973