Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sputnik Brunch | Vegan in the City | Denver Restaurant Reviews

3 South Broadway, Denver Colorado

Stacks of Vegan Power- Quinoa cakes, potatoes, veggies, greens, avocado, roasted garlic sauce
Chilaquiles, veganized- Corn tortillas, pinto beans, pickled nopales, pico de gallo, green chili, and scrambled tofu
Side of Home Fries

Oh Sputnik! Somedays you perform beautifully with creative food, great service, and perfectly executed dishes. I leave happy and satisfied. I rant about your abilities, your food, and send friends your way. Then there are the other days...
Sadly, these are becoming more commonplace. A change in staff perhaps? An unhappy kitchen? Possibly, Sputnik is now relying on their well deserved reputation from the past and not continuing to improve or maintain those standards. Thank you for giving us vegan options. Yet don't just throw mindlessly prepared food our way, call it vegan, and expect us to be happy and keep coming back. A vegan menu needs more than creative dish titles and unique ingredients. It needs consistent execution and a well trained staff. It needs thoughtful food preparation and trained knowledge of vegetables. 

As can be divulged from the opening paragraph, the brunch was incredibly disappointing. It was some of the most mediocre and sloppily prepared food I have ever had in Denver. It tasted like a hungover cook who should have taken the day off instead of gracing us all with his thoughtless cooking. To begin, I do not want to listen to full blast Sirius XM Classic Rock music at 11:00 in the morning. That overplayed Journey song does not excite my taste buds and only added to the annoyance. Does anyone want to hear Classic Rock full blast while eating brunch? We asked our server to turn down the music, but our requests were ignored.

As a seasoned traveller to Mexico, I was excited to see a veganized version of Chilaquiles being offered. This is the ultimate comfort food breakfast south of the border. Sputniks' version compared on some levels with a flavorful tomatillo sauce perfectly saucing crispy tortilla chips. The scrambled tofu was excellent and accompanied the Chilaquiles well. However, the beans looked inedible and they were frigid cold. They appeared as if they had been on the food line for a few days resulting in dried out beans with a thick, unappetizing texture. Canned beans would have had more appeal. It is obvious these beans came from a can. Just how many days ago was the mystery at hand. 'Pickled Nopales' are served with this entree. Sputnik's version, or the hungover cook's version, is canned nopal cactus strips mixed with chile powder and raw onions. It is served cold. It is the weirdest preparation of nopal cactus I have ever encountered. It makes no sense on a foodie level. It has no place on the menu. The flavor of canned nopales is dramatically different than freshly prepared nopales. It might sound cool and creative on the menu description, but don't bother bringing me the cheap canned version. It is a sad reflection on this central mexican dish.

Lets' move on to the side of home fries I ordered. They were cut up french fries. I was served chopped up french fries and told it was 'home fries'. I am still speechless, even as I write this review.

Stacks of Vegan Power is quite a menu item name. The description sounds amazing and I am sure when this dish is prepared correctly, it is a great creation. At first glance, all I could see was a huge pile of kale and veggies as the server set this down for us to eat. The presentation was sloppy and looked thrown together in a hurry. Kale is a food trend that many restaurants are getting on board with these days. It is a superfood that needs to be treated with respect by chefs and cooks. When properly prepared, depth and complexity is instantly added to any dish it is featured in. The most basic rule with kale is to remove the huge, chewy center ribs. The second rule is to make sure it gets enough moisture through sauteeing and/or steaming so that the kale isn't chewy and can be eaten easily. Oh Sputnik! I expected you to know how these rules. A plate of undercooked, chewy, chunky, and ribbed kale pieces epitomized a health food meets dive bar food nightmare. So we have a tasteless vegetable pile of kale combined with raw onions and undercooked carrots. There was absolutely no seasoning detected on these vegetables. My taste buds screamed '"MEH"! Thankfully, the Quinoa cakes hidden underneath were flavorful, however, deep fried. I enjoyed the garlic sauce and wished there was twice as much of it. This dish needs work, but has potential.

In summary, I will go back to Sputnik and give this place another chance. I have had great food experiences in the past and am hopeful to have more. This review is harsh. But a restaurant needs to have pride in what it serves and this should be reflected in each dish given to customers. The mediocrity and poor execution of the brunch was inexcusable. I eat vegan, but expect the same amount of attention to be paid to my food as well.

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