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Daveed's Next

The assembly area of an open kitchen leaves a chef no place to hide. An audience can scrutinize the bold strokes of his mind, the ingredients, pairings, big choices, as well as the final flourishes—a sprig of fresh rosemary here, a spoonful of jus there. Daveed’s Next embraces that openness.

Housed in a former strip mall coffee shop north of I-275 in Loveland, Next’s front area is pressed into service by raw necessity. Diners in the 10 counter seats find themselves within whispering distance of the chef, and can peer through a shoulder-high glass partition into ceramic bowls brimming with sauces, minced herbs, and other colorful provisions. Smaller areas of the counter are blocked out for liquor bottles and a cash register, leaving little room for needless movement.

Chef and owner David Cook meets the challenge of his unusual space with equal parts boldness and gallows humor. The 40-seat restaurant has no deep-fryer or hooded ventilation system; only an induction stove, an oven, a couple of plug-in appliances, and a cramped prep area in the back. It’s an unusual location, too—off the beaten path and directly competing with chain restaurants. But Cook is certainly no stranger to small kitchens or competition. Daveed’s, his former restaurant in Mt. Adams, produced impressively haute cuisine for years from a space only slightly bigger than Next’s. Even the name is a playful nod to his time with Jean-Robert de Cavel at the iconic Maisonette. “This was the sound of angry chefs yelling at me, ‘Daveed...Daveed...’” he says with a chuckle.

After Daveed’s closed 18 months ago, Cook considered two locations for a newer, more casual concept. His first choice didn’t work out, so he plunged headfirst into his backup plan. Almost defiantly, Cook has turned what could have been cramped quarters into Daveed’s Next’s biggest charm—a warm, convivial space with approachable cuisine made to share.

It’s clear that Cook likes and trusts his bare-bones staff, encouraging their creative input and offering them room to innovate. General manager and mixologist Matt Bengal concocts most of Next’s cocktail menu, and that free hand leads him to drinks that exude moods rather than flavors. The sensuous and immediately likeable PEARadise stood out. Pear-infused vodka offers a layer of noncommittal sweetness that is drawn out by traces of Midori and grapefruit. The drink is spectral—evocative of warm sands yet hard to pin down. The chocolate espresso martini was the perfect antidote to a rainy evening, with just enough vodka to stand up to a sweet blanket of chocolate and espresso. Even Bengal’s more adventurous parings work, like the dandelion-green infused gin and tonic that is earthy and pleasantly bitter.

Dinner started with a cheese plate that highlighted different levels of creaminess—a supple brie led into a rich aged gouda followed by a dense, salty Spanish sheep’s-milk cheese. A complementary array of  preserved Turkish shell-on walnuts, little cubes of membrillo (a quince paste common in Spain), and airy crostini from Sixteen Bricks Artisan Bakehouse in Fairfax, added some crunch to the smooth cream.

While the restaurant occasionally features communally served tasting menus, Next’s focus is on smaller à la carte items, which encourages discovery. Cook’s dishes soar in their harmony, even when a star ingredient asserts itself. The honey-roasted lavender pear salad, for instance, forced us to ignore the fresh, perfectly dressed greens and fight over the tender, meaty wedges of pear, which were dotted with just enough lavender to add a floral blast of intensity. The roasted red potato plate offers thick, mildly salted wedges briefly cooked at 500 degrees and flecked with tangy bits of goat cheese and a generous scattering of crisp bacon.

Our server and chef de cuisine, Michael Brown, beamed as he described the day boat scallops, which had been pan seared, usually the first and best option, then paired with an unusual take on puttanesca. The tomatoes in Next’s version of the century-old sauce are deeply roasted and contain pureed olives (rather than whole). This sauce acts like an echo—amplifying the sweet brine of the scallop while adding a critical dose of acidity that the mild, rich shellfish needs.

Even on plates that feature an ensemble cast, it’s pleasing to see simple ingredients play together so well. The roasted potatoes pick up just enough flavor from the bacon without turning greasy. Juice from a perfectly cooked hangar steak puddles on its pillow of polenta. Even the Brussels sprouts, which receive no flavor boost from skin-on kielbasa, keep just the right dense, cabbagey sweetness.

Desserts, like the dinner plates, are meant to be passed around. The milk chocolate ganache bites hide a marcona almond within a pyramid of intensely sweet chocolate that melts as it enters the mouth. These pyramids are served atop a homemade dulce de leche, which adds a salty, brooding dimension. Equally dramatic is the aptly named “Infamous White-Chocolate Mousse.” Sitting on a berry coulis and topped with a few flakes of merlot-infused sea salt, the ethereal mousse acts as a delivery system for inventive flavors.

Daveed’s Next succeeds because it has found a way to celebrate its limitations and revel in its close-quarter cooking. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit with friends and pass plates back and forth, chitchatting with a gifted chef a few feet away and marveling at how such a small space can yield such huge wonders.

Daveed’s Next, 8944 Columbia Rd. Ste. 2A, Loveland, (513) 683-2665, daveedsnext.com