Lauded Chef Christian Graves has been working with Kimpton restaurants for 11 years, and he’s especially fired up about his latest project in Denver. Although the concept for Citizen Rail is tricky to describe, Christian envisions it as a “live fire” restaurant, serving “awesome” American food.
Christian recently moved to Colorado from San Diego, where he spent the last decade at JSix—and was once declared by Eater the city’s “hottest chef.” Before that, he was in San Francisco working at esteemed restaurants like Farallon and Aqua.
Christian explains that being a grill cook “has always been in his wheelhouse,” and his resume shows serious chops working with live fire. That’s why he’s especially excited about the restaurant’s dry-aged room and butcher’s room, as well as two grills in the exhibition kitchen. This means one grill is focused on bringing out mesquite/hickory and the other pulls out oak/fruitwoods (like apple and peach). Christian clarifies that—while they don’t necessarily want to be labeled as a steakhouse—they do want to serve the best steak in town.
Whole sides of animals and larger cuts will be possible thanks to the dedicated butchering room, something the average restaurant can’t pull off. Christian says he doesn’t want to only prepare dry-aged red meat; “I also want to do a lot of pork, duck…You name it, we’re going to mess around with it.”
At home, Christian’s go-to side typically involves sliced potatoes tossed with rosemary, garlic and olive oil. Citizen Born will serve shareable items including grilled asparagus with aioli and preserved lemons on top, mashed potato and cauliflower dishes, duck fat fries with slow-roasted garlic and roasted veggies like a smoked carrot dish (with almond puree).
8 GRILLING TIPS FOR COOKING THE PERFECT STEAK:
- Spend money on quality meats—the thicker the better. Christian says, “there’s nothing worse than a thin, wimpy, sad steak.”
- Keep it simple: Season with kosher salt, large cracked pepper, olive oil and perhaps some balsamic.
- Use lump mesquite wood (hickory chips) for more smoke and flavor
- “Get it moving,” and crank the grill up to a “super hot” temperature (up to 700 degrees for mesquite).
- For a two-finger-thick cut: Cook one side for two to three minutes, flip and do two to three minutes on the other side, then flip back for an additional two minutes on the first side, then do the last side for one minute. The whole process should take 15 to 20 minutes. (For three-finger cuts, add 90 seconds to each side.)
- Get the meat nice and caramelized – you can use balsamic to help with that.
- Let it rest in a warm spot and “hang out” (on a plate covered with tin foil, for three to five minutes).
- Eat, and enjoy!