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Divine by design

August 19, 2010 by
Divine by design

The west side’s new jazz bar, Motif, hits the high notes.

by Bryce Crawfordphoto by Brienne Boortz

It’s a few decades removed from its slaughterhouse days, having last seen duty as a storage area for Andrew and Heather Darrigan‘s Food Designers catering company. But this Old Colorado City space still needed more than $100,000 in renovations before coming out the other side as Motif jazz bar.

And yet Motif’s menu — featuring small plates like the addictive shoestring fries with white truffle oil, chives and shaved Manchego cheese ($5), and $10 top-shelf martinis like the sugary-pink, Chambord-laden French — fails to bear out that cost. It’s a deliberate disconnect, says Andrew, who with his wife owns the two-and-a-half-month-old spot with musician Steve Draper.

“When you look at the menu, it’s cost-effective, it’s great,” he says. “We didn’t want to make it crazy-high and get locked into that stuff. But people love it, everyone loves it — they love the atmosphere and the whole thing. The response we’re getting is, Barcelona, or New York City.

“You’ve totally transcended. Once you come into the place, it’s like you’re not in Colorado Springs anymore.”

Coltrane love him, he’s right. Motif has more unpretentious hip personality than the Blue Star.

Rhapsody in hue

Outside, large umbrellas hover over lime sherbet-green cushions on black wicker furniture, stark against the light bamboo fence that frames the patio. Faux tea-light candles flicker on the high-top tables and neighboring booths; though the patio could use more light in full darkness, the warm glow of the inner space spills out through the open garage door that serves as the entrance to the dining room and bar.

Inside, you’re pleasantly lost in the clamor of voices, the swish of a brush stick on a snare drum, and the dum-dum-dum-dum of a double bass. Rich reds, oranges and purples fill painted walls and light shades, while a nacre tile wall reflects back booths and tables structured with clean, straight lines. Mellow lights underneath the glass-topped bar show off changing colors, soothingly illuminating drinks like the crème brûlée martini, a flawless, cinnamony ode to the dessert.

Jazzy delight gets going around 8:30, but the large, lumpy crispy chicken bites ($6) sing as soon as I take a bite. Swabbed through a roasted shallot béarnaise, the juicy brined and prosciutto-crusted pieces yield poultry paradise.

The Gallic staple that is béarnaise richly reappears over the top of the humbly named steak and potato ($12), a creamy four-ounce filet that rests on a thinly sliced and layered, scalloped-potatoes-like pave. With a gentle lemon aftertaste, the dish is complex, primal haute cuisine.

Sentimental mood

With similarly European-inspired sauces, breads and oils all over the menu, Darrigan’s schooling at the French Culinary Institute in New York City is obvious. Take the Kobe beef sliders ($10): Three two-inch-high burgers nestle into delectably buttery brioche rolls made in-house, and arrive decked out with oven-roasted tomato, homegrown arugula and a whipped Port-Salut cheese drizzle. They’re ridiculous, and the most popular item on the menu.

Like the roasted tomatoes, a host of other ingredients hail from Tejon Street’s Extraordinary Ingredients: the pomegranate reduction on one night’s superbly flaky, gossamer-like cod special ($15); the truffle oil on the fries; and crystallized ginger that, candied, tops the coffee-hinted, lush crème brûlée ($5) dessert.

The potato gnocchi ($7) gets another local kiss, with micro basil from Black Forest-based Naturescape Microgreens. Sadly, it’s not enough to rescue a surprisingly lame dumpling-in-tomato-sauce dish.

A second rare miss is the bacon tempura ($6). The pecan maple dipping sauce drips sweet and thick, but during our visit, the bacon must have bathed in the fryer for minutes before being served: Taken together, it all tasted like a burnt-to-hell pork cookie.

Motif shines in every other way, however. The brie vinaigrette-topped Motif salad ($5) of greens, crackling Serrano ham and ribboned Anjou pear is wonderfully light (though I wouldn’t mind more pear). The salmorejo shrimp ($7.50), skewered colossal black tiger shrimp covered in a guajillo chili marinade, are succulence incarnate, while the fresh fruit cobbler ($8) of boozed-up, tart apples and berries, underneath a puff pastry with vanilla bean ice cream, should end every meal.

Motif’s currently open just Friday and Saturday, but this fall will bring Thursday operations and a modified winter patio. Consider it a blessed fix; the combination of food, mood and music is almost addicting. The tapas trend has struck the Springs — see Pizzeria Rustica’s new offshoot, and The Broadmoor’s West Lobby Bar — but for now, it’s Darrigan’s neighborhood hideout that has me impatiently waiting for the weekend.

bryce@csindy.com

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