Breckenridge restaurant Artisan 206 offers off-the-beaten-path menu options from around the world
The globally inspired mind of chef Samir Mohammad has carefully crafted the menu at Artisan 206, offering patrons a trip across the world and back, all without ever having to leave the table.
Shared plates are highly encouraged at Artisan 206, which opened its doors at 206 N. Main St. in Breckenridge on Nov. 25, and the grilled octopus is only one of the restaurant’s off-the-beaten-path dishes shaped by chef Mohammad’s 20 years of worldly experience.
“Certainly a lot of it has been,” said manager Rachel Firestone, answering a question about how much of Artisan 206’s menu has been influenced by the chef’s travels, both as a servicemember and as a cook in resort markets.
“We also just wanted to open a restaurant we’d like to eat at, so there’s a lot of our favorites on there too,” she added, explaining that when she and chef Mohammad go out, they like to order different things and eat off each other’s plates, hence the idea that people might like to share at Artisan 206, too.
Firestone is chef Mohammad’s partner, in business and in life, and the young couple thinks the new business might have exactly what it takes to succeed in Breckenridge, where cookie-cutter restaurants are harder to find than parking.
Mohammad got his start in a kitchen as a teenager, when he was living in Taos, New Mexico. Not surprisingly, one of the menu items at Artisan 206 — the hominy falafel — pays homage to those roots by putting a Southwestern twist on the comestible made famous by the Middle East.
Deciding he wanted to be a chef, Mohammad and his adopted parents both said he didn’t have the money to pay for culinary arts school after high school, so he joined the U.S. Coast Guard instead and worked aboard a vessel until he could see his way through college.
Since then, Mohammad has “quietly wowed” culinary connoisseurs in Denver for years, first at The Village Cork and later with the Black Pearl, before it closed, according to the Westword, an alternative weekly newspaper that covers the Mile High restaurant scene.
After that, Mohammad went on to work for resorts in Indonesia before returning to Colorado to run the culinary program at the History Colorado Center and its Cafe Rendezvous, again in Denver.
That helped prompt his move to Breckenridge, and Chef Mohammad said he believes that every experience — be it in the kitchen or dining out — is a “teaching moment.”
Still, ask him what his favorite dish is and he has to take a minute to think about it.
“That’s tough,” Mohammad said with a long pause. “I think it’s got to be the Lamb Tikka Masala right now. We’re doing a lot of our own pickling, curing and charcuterie in house here. That’s kind of my passion, but the lamb tikka is something we worked on for almost five months, just really trying to nail it down, get the right spice combo together, the right lamb, and it’s a beautiful dish.”
It comes with roasted tomatoes, garlic, pearl onion and a spicy yogurt sauce. The dish is originally from India, but Artisan 206’s take on the classic has quickly become one of Mohammad’s most well-received menu options since the restaurant’s grand opening.
Artisan 206 also seeks to offer something for everyone, and its Ma Po Tofu is one popular dish that can be specially made to suit vegetarians.
Another popular order, the English-style fish and chips, comes from halfway across the world but sits right next to Ma Po Tofu on the menu. The British-inspired plate features a whole fillet of rockfish, and Firestone compared its flavor to bass. Instead of three or four bass fillets, she said, one whole rockfish fillet is usually big enough to satisfy most appetites.
“We’re going all over the place, right?” Firestone said as she continued to run down the menu, stopping for a minute on the pappardelle pasta, which derives its names from the Italian language but is made entirely in-house at Artisan 206.
Moving on to the Mediterranean, the Moroccan Braised Bison stands out as one of the more expensive orders at $26.50. With pan sauce and crispy shallot, however, it’s sure to be a hit for anyone craving the lighter flavor of bison, opposed to regular beef.
Perhaps the one dish everyone should try at least once at Artisan 206 is the Taiwanese chicken and waffles, an oriental tilt on the classic Southern comfort food. The chicken and waffles also comes with a hearty side of “Honey Boo Boo Sauce,” which is equal parts honey and butter with a stick of bacon because, well, who doesn’t love bacon?
Mohammad said he hates the term “farm to table” because “everything comes from a farm.” Rather he said he tries to “source the best ingredients possible,” many of which are produced in Colorado. Others aren’t.
Still, the restaurant takes great pride in bringing in all of the protein it plates by the whole animal, except for the bison, which is simply too big to butcher in-house.
“That’s right,” Firestone explained. “Chef Samir butchers and breaks down the animals. We get pig — they usually come in two halves — but we get lamb, duck, chicken, all as whole animals. Chef breaks them down, and we use every bit of it.”
That also makes things nice for the restaurant when it comes time to do the charcuterie boards, or cured meats, in addition to a number of homemade broths, all the time striving to be a “zero-waste kitchen.”
Before its grand opening, the restaurant was completely redone inside, and one wall separating the kitchen from the dinning area was ripped out to invite patrons to see what’s happening in the kitchen and vice versa.
A lot rides on chef Mohammad’s menu, but he’s not alone in this venture because in addition to Firestone, who was an account manager for a software company in Boulder before deciding to leave that position to go all-in and help run the new restaurant, Mohammad is being joined in the venture by his “adopted parents,” Chris Litsey and Corinna Jang, whom he met while working in their restaurant in New Mexico.
The trio all say that he adopted them, not the other way around. Litsey and Jang, who owned the building that once housed the Red Orchid, came out of retirement to help their adopted son build Artisan 206 — where their old restaurant once stood.
“We’re all deep in this and loving life,” Firestone said. “I think we’ve slept the least amount in all of our lifetimes but we’re happy and energized.”
Artisan 206 offers brunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, happy hour from 4-6 p.m. daily and dinner from 5-10 p.m. daily. To see the complete menu, go online to Artisan206.com or stop by the restaurant.