Boulder’s Arugula Bar e Ristorante Features Innovative 'Inspired by the Moment' Cuisine

This restaurant's fine dining comes with a friendly, artistic vibe, and an inviting farm-to-table philosophy
Staff Writer

Credit: Ron Stern

Seared handmade ricotta gnocchi in thyme sauce with ingredients that include cauliflower, shiitake, and Gorgonzola cheese. 

While there are many dining options in Boulder, Colorado, affordable fine dining can be a rarity. Fortunately, Arugula Bar e Restorante is a little oasis of culinary splendor tucked into the NW corner of Iris Ave. and 28th St., right next to the popular Tangerine restaurant.

Chef/proprietor Alec Schuler, who also owns Tangerine, has given Arugula a culinary facelift with new modern décor and a menu featuring the freshest ingredients, thanks to local farmers and purveyors with whom he has long-standing relationships. In fact, you could say that Schuler is the ultimate farm-to-table enthusiast, creating flavor intensive foods with an almost unheard of bi-weekly changing menu every Tuesday and Friday. The result is what Arugula calls “inspired by the moment” upscale cuisine, which allows Executive chef Sven Hedenas the flexibility to use only the best of what is available during a particular season.

Among the changes chef/proprietor Schuler has made is a new interior design using warm colors, custom lighting, and updated textiles that exude an open and chic ambiance. Culinary artwork lines the walls such as antique kitchen and wine instruments, which chef/proprietor Schuler calls a homage to Louise Nevelson, an artist known for her monochromatic wooden wall and outdoor art. Local chalk artist Bryce Widom was also chosen to create a layered food and wine piece as a stand-out visual element in the dining room.

Chef Schuler has been influenced by many world cuisines, most notably Italian. He wanted to offer his own version of “fresh, artistically prepared, simple, and colorful cuisine” in his new vision of Arugula. One could add 'affordable' to that list, as a chef’s choice five-course tasting menu for the whole table is only $59 per person.

There are no deep fryers at Arugula, and they also use extra virgin olive oil along with expeller-pressed sunflower oil if any fat is necessary. The name “Arugula,” in fact, was chosen as a symbol to denote a fresh, flavorful, and zesty experience.

With an extensive wine selection overseen by General Manager Ari Karra, Arugula has taken the mystery out of the wine selection process. Each menu offers two or more specially-created entrees for pairing with one of its featured wines by the glass. These entrees are denoted by a wine glass icon beneath the description. The restaurant also offers 40 percent off most bottles of wine on Wednesday nights.

Some of the delectable selections include antipasti such as warm pork belly lardons over butter lettuce with Marcona almonds, Turkish apricots, and radishes in a champagne apricot vinaigrette ($11.) For entrees, the most requested item is the Colorado bison and Texas boar Bolognese with hand-rolled orecchiette pasta, French sheep feta cheese, broccolini, and fresh herbs ($19.)

Arugula offers eight wine dinners per year each featuring a five-course wine pairing menu. Each event is hosted by a presenter, who will guide you through the evening’s selections. These dinners are usually held on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. ($50 per person for dinner plus $39 for the wines plus tax and tip).

Arugula is proof that you can enjoy a wonderful fine dining experience in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, surrounded by art, without having to spend a fortune. Arugula is open nightly for dinner at 5:00 p.m.

FTC Disclosure: This was a sponsored visit. All opinions herein are the authors.

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