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First Bites

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First Bites: Chillfire Bar & Grill in Denver is a work in progress

By Helen Schwab
Restaurant Writer

First Bite offers an opinionated peek at, not a full-fledged review of, a restaurant that opened recently, based on one meal.

Chillfire Bar & Grill comes (partly) from the guys who brought you Epic Chophouse, Mickey & Mooch and the defunct Manzetti’s.

The food: The lineup is fairly straightforward: steaks, seafood (from crabcakes and fried shrimp to spiced Chilean sea bass), specialties (5 of 6 are beef), chicken and duck (not so common) and lots of starch among the sides.

The kitchen appears to still be working things out, though a server (on a 40-minute-wait night) said he hadn’t seen it so slow since they opened.

Prime rib was handsome and comes in three sizes (a smart decision), though our server explained the kitchen doesn’t permit you to order it less than medium. She hastened to say medium can be quite medium-rare, though, so she recommended I chance it. I did, and it was lovely – but they apparently can’t guarantee yours will be.

The sea bass proved dry, though its spinach underpinnings were quite buttery, and grilled lollipop wings (an appetizer) were bone-dry; perhaps we should have chosen the fried option, since the flavors were promising. A tuna tower matches tuna with avocado (nice) and thin ribbons of carrot (flavorless), while an enormous Cobb salad included half a cup of crumbled bacon and unripe avocado slices.

The look: Two window walls, columns thinly tiled in stone, twisted pairs of palms dressed in tiny white lights and pendant lights hanging from thick ropes give a little nautical feel, and there’s a fiery wall display at one end of the sizable place. All those hard surfaces, and a concrete floor, mean it’s noisy when busy.

The service: Neat in white oxford shirts and black pants, these are warm and well educated about the menu, and attentive. Dishes take quite some time to come out, but it’s still early.

Details: Dinner only for now (entrees about $13-$39); 121A Cross Center Drive in the Shoppes at Waterside Crossing in Denver; 704-827-2121; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ChillfireGrill.

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