When walking into Margot, Justin Fulton’s Sunday-only pop-up at Coperta in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood, you can’t help but feel like you’ve been let in on a lively little secret. The streets are dim and fairly empty on a brisk early-March night, and the nearby businesses are only peppered with a few patrons. When you enter the front door, the bar is closed off. For a moment you might briefly think to yourself, Am in the right place? Then you’re quickly and warmly greeted and led into the adjacent cozy dining room, which is teeming with movement from the small and committed team and the engaged guests.
Service is instantly genuine and earnest. Our server leads us into the 10-course experience; the only option that the concept offers. The first thing he brings to the table is a small cast iron dish of still rising, uncooked, pillowy brioche slathered with butter. He jokingly tells us not to eat it yet (I must admit I was a little tempted) and lets us know it’ll be back about halfway through our meal after it spends a little time in the oven.
Then comes a trio of snacks; no flatware on the table yet, which cues us to eat with our fingers. The flavors are bright and distinct, and each couldn’t be more different than the other: cucumber with tuna tartare, crispy panisse with cauliflower and a tiny tarte shell filled with a generous spoonful of briny caviar. Excitement builds with each little bite. Wine pairings lean towards the Old World: a lucent folle blanche and an orange pinot gris macerated with the grape skins and rich with candied orange peel follow us through the first few courses.
Chef Justin joins the dining room team in serving and presenting the dishes as he leads the kitchen from the pass. His enthusiasm is evident in the way he’s engaging with his guests. I’m able to connect with some questions before and during the meal and he explains his culinary path and how it’s culminated at Margot. Growing up in Colorado and getting the culinary bug early, he graduated from culinary school and worked his way through expert kitchens in North Carolina, Maine, New York and Michigan before landing back in Colorado with his family. After spending about a year at Mercantile Dining & Provision in Union Station, Justin met Paul Reilly, co-owner of Coperta, at a charity event and they hit it off instantly. Paul was willing to give Justin the chance to hone his vison for Margot on Sundays (the only day they close their doors) and Justin jumped at the chance to bring his vision to life.
Chef Justin tells me about how he’s taken every piece of kitchen training that’s resonated with him to create his own eclectic style. “If I have anything to bring back to Colorado from my outside experience, it’s a worldwide perception of how to make food the best it can be and 17 years of diligent selectiveness of what that means to me,” he explains. My dining companion also points out the varied flavors and influences. A first half highlight is a cured Ora king salmon with coconut broth and preserved coriander.
The bread is back and it is tinged golden-brown and otherworldly. The urfa butter lends some earthiness with a generous slather, but I also use it to sop up the remnants of the parmesan foam at the base of a dish of Parisian gnocchi. The main course culminates with a perfectly cooked cut of American Wagyu alongside a sunchoke mille feuille cooked in beef fat with a truffle jus.
Surprises keep coming after the pastry course of a dark chocolate pave with absinthe cream. Chef Justin mentions he’s far from a pastry chef, but the luxurious cake is his current obsession. Sauternes gelée and a cute little box of mignardise (bite-sized desserts) are delightful parting gifts.
Chef Justin’s goal is to bring Margot into her own space so his team isn’t limited by a single day of service and a fixed menu. “Bringing Margot into her own space would afford me the opportunity to really carve out the identity and vision that I’ve always had for her,” Justin says. “In our own space, we would still focus highly on the tasting menu option but also offer more of a shareable, small plate experience.”
The experience is well worth the visit. The ten courses are a commitment but are truly seamless, exciting and varied. “The idea behind Sundays at Margot is that you step off of the street in Denver and are transported to that little hole in the wall you discovered in an alleyway in Paris,” Justin says. For now, that discovery is waiting for you, and Margot’s secret is out every Sunday.
Sunday reservations can be made at margotdenver.com