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Denver Restaurant Recommendations

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I realized last night that I left one of my consistent favorites off my original list... Solera on Colfax. It's not Frasca, but I've always had a good meal there and I like the wine list (and the fact that the wait staff has obviously actually tried the wines and can speak knowledgably about them).

I had dinner there last night and while some of the meal was just good (the fried calamari appetizer is great bar food, but doesn't seem consistent with upscale dining), the fois gras I had as my meal was outstanding. It was a good-sized lobe (not just a puny slice), seared, served on a similarly-sized serving of savory bread pudding, with truffled-honey on the side. The truffled honey was spectacular with the fois gras--I'm still drooling.

The rest of the menu looked okay, but it was too heavy on seafood for my taste and the non-fish items (1 beef, 1 pork, and 1 chicken) just didn't float my boat. The chicken seemed too plain (I almost never order chicken in a restaraunt), the pork was too spicy, and I'm not a huge steak eater (although the truffled fries sounded interesting--unfortunately the only person at our table who ordered the steak was seated too far away for me to snag a sample). People who got the seared scallops served on truffled macaroni-and-cheese (I think there's a truffle theme going on) raved about it, but the mac-n-cheese I tasted couldn't compare to my honey.

Anyway, I've eaten at Solera many times and have never had a bad meal there, have always liked the service, and they've been in business for a while now, so they've definitely settled into their groove. If you're looking for a place to eat in Denver, I'd add them to your short list.

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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  • 3 weeks later...

I'll be in town Sat-Thursday morning and have reservations at Fruition on Tuesday. Let's see...that leaves Sat, Sun, Mon and Wed for more food! Unfortunately I'll be stuck in the Westminster strip mall hell at the mercy of taxis. Is there anything worthwhile up that way? I'll also see if I can't get to Domo based on the above rec.

Are there any unique or exceptional pastries (not bars and brownies)?

If Desiderio comes out of hiding, I'll be buying some chocolate too.

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I have just returned from Fruition and had a very nice evening. Before I get to that, let me say that I woke up in the middle of the night worrying that Domo (my meal tomorrow night) was ruined because the building was a faux Walt-Disneyesque experience. I sure hope not.

But tonight was Fruition. A list in a previous post has it as the number one restaurant in Denver.

We were in their Fall menu version #6. They started the table with a bread service that was nice, but added nothing to the meal. Two options of a light wheat and a classic baguette. My health conscious friends chose the wheat and I, the baguette. The baguette was the fattest baguette I have ever seen and would more appropriately be called something else. I then started my wines with an 05 Guigal Cote de Rhone Blanc. I asked for this because I had never had a CdR Blanc. Like the bread, pleasant, but not memorable. (Our own Rogov did a nice review of a more aged version of this on HIS BLOG).

For my appetizer I had the Duck Confit. Very nice flavor (albeit a touch salty as I had expected) served with orechiette pasta, mushrooms and butternut squash. Great texture contrast with the skin and succulent meat. The bottom had become a bit soggy, but I was talking tonight, so I'll take the blame :)

For the entree I had the sea bass. The sea bass was nicely prepared with a crisp skin. There was some (I emphasize SOME) black truffle which the server identified as from the Perigord region of France. The dish also included pumpkin seeds which were difficult to chew. But the highlight of the night was the sweet potato/yam puree which no word fits better than ethereal. So light, so bright, so delicately flavor packed. A true delight in my mouth.

With dinner I enjoyed, at the server's recommendation, an 06 O'Reilley's Pinot Noir. Nice, but nothing memorable.

For dessert I had the lemon meringue pie which the maitre'd said was the best dessert on the menu.


Think key lime pie but lemon with an Italian meringue. Very good, but not the best on the menu. A friend had the Peanut Butter Pave (on a previous version of the menu they called this a mousse which is what it was albeit dense). The pave was a tad gritty, but had a super taste of strongly roasted Spanish peanuts. Too much for me after that meal, but I appreciated my two spoonfuls immensely.


The service was very friendly as was the atmosphere. Our server was exactly what we wanted this evening, but could have benefited from a bit more education on the dishes and wine selections. We watched as twice customers asked for wine pairings and they went for the most expensive instead of the best pairing (price does not equal best).

So was it the top in the city? My friends and I agreed that it was a very nice meal, and appropriate for the value. We would all happily return. But, if this is the top in the city then we felt that the city is lacking in culinary experiences. Again, that is not a punch in Fruition's stomach, but when we compared it to other "top city" experiences, it was just not at the same level.

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gfron1, I'm glad you enjoyed your meal at Fruition and somewhat gratified to discover that it's not just me--that while it's a pleasant meal, it doesn't transport one. So far, I just haven't gotten it about Fruition and can't see it as the #1 place in Denver.

I had dinner (again) last night at Luca D'Italia and there wasn't a vanilla-scented candle in sight. :raz: We sat at the bar and both ordered the chef's tasting menu with the reserve wine flight. I love a tasting menu (especially when there's no published menu ahead of time so that each dish is a surprise) and this one was excellent. I'll describe the meal in a minute, but I want to start out with the brilliant (brilliant!) touch of sending us home with a copy of the menu along with the wine pairings, rolled up and tied with a length of kitchen twine. Such a little thing, but it brought me so much joy! (As my husband told the owner as we were leaving: "Now she can go home and tell her geek cooking board *exactly* what she had" which, of course, made the owner very happy)

Anyway, reading from my scroll, we started off with an amuse trio of a cold eggplant dish, a braised pork shoulder with dried cherries and gorgonzola (funny, since my husband had explicitly told them "no gorgonzola" as he loathes the stuff), and a white bean and pancetta puree with balsamic vinegar. The wine was an Italian (naturally) sparkling Non Vintage Bellavista Franciacorta Brut Lombardy--nice, dry, and a pleasant start to the meal. I'm no expert on sparkling wines, so that's the best I can do.

Next was a truffled asparagus soup with pickled beets and lump crab. In a word, amazing. I could have bathed in the stuff. Creamy, earthy truffle taste and visually stunning with the bright green of the soup and the deep red of the beets. Really marvelous. And with it a 2005 Vie di Romans "Piere Sauvignon" Friuli that paired perfectly--crisp, earthy, delicious. Wish I was less shy and more adept with the camera in my cell phone, because it was worth a picture.

Then we had a riff on a surf-n-turf: confit of pork belly and a seared diver scallop with beluga lentils and pork jus (and to think, I just asked in the "embarrassing cooking questions" thread why no one makes pork stock...) with a 2006 Josef Hofstatter Gewurztraminer Alto Adige. I want to take this opportunity to take back every nasty comment and thought I've ever had about Gewurztraminers... This one was a) delicous and b) absolutely perfect with the rich, fatty pork belly. The acid in the wine really cut through the richness and held its own. I loved it. And, really, what's not to love about pork belly?

Pasta course was a Tallegio Agnolotti with veal sweetbreads and a thyme chicken reduction. The sweetbreads were divine and the pasta was lovely. Just enough tooth to give you something to chew paired with the sweet, creamy cheese centers... And we switched to red wines at this point with a 2000 Moccagatta Barbaresco "Brie Balin" Piedmont. A nice wine, not too rich--a good transition from white to red.

At this point, I was stuffed and so when the waitress/bartender reset our places with steak knives, I nearly groaned. At some level, good as the food had been, I think I was hoping it was over so I could go home and dream of the meal I'd eaten. But, nooooo... they had to serve grilled lamp chops with a chick pea puree and lamb sausage with a 2001 Gagliole Super Tuscan "Gagliole." To be honest, I think that even if I hadn't been stuffed, this was the weakest dish of the night. The lamb was perfectly done--on the rare side of medium--but the sausage didn't really contribute to the dish and the chick pea puree was just a tad grainy for my taste. It was an okay dish, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't great.

BUT then came dessert and it was marvelous. I was afraid they were going to serve something rich and chocolate (because so many people, strangely to my mind, expect nothing less than rich and chocolate when it comes to dessert), but no! They served a housemade sweetened ricotta with fresh strawberries and a balsamic reduction. It was creamy and just lightly sweet--the perfect end to a heavy (or any, for that matter) meal. And my husband proved just why I've stuck with him for 15 years by not finishing his ricotta and letting me have half of his in addition to my own (did I say I was full--I guess no one is ever too full for dessert!). I don't know and don't care if he didn't like it--to me it was a little moment of heaven. Now I've got to go figure out how to do it myself.

Anyway, for anyone who was frightened off from Luca D'Italia from the previous mediocre report, I hope this one leads to reconsider your choices because this was a great meal and it wasn't the first (or the last, I hope) that I've had there.

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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Okay Denver Foodies,

I know there are restaurants listed on threads but honestly, please tell me your "must" top ten recommendations where you would take out-of-towners to dine or at least tell them to eat there.


As you probably know, choosing a top 10 "must-eat-here" list isn't an easy task. That said, when I'm pressed to choose, which is often, here's where I send people. These are also the restaurants that I eat at time and time again, not because I must, but because I want to.

1. Frasca Food & Wine, Boulder

2. Fruition, Denver

3. Mizuna, Denver

4. Deluxe, Denver

5. Rioja, Denver

6. Vesta Dipping Grill, Denver

7. Z Cuisine, Denver

8. Duo, Denver

9. Nine 75

10. Cafe Brazil, Denver

As an aside, Denver also trumpets a litany of excellent ethnic joints.

Glad to see Cafe Brazil on the list somewhere, I can say that is the best (only) fine dining I have had in the city. When visiting last, my friends uncle was taking us to eat and when he found out I was a chef that was where he took us, truly delicious and simple, this was in their old location. The chef then came out to greet us and also brought us some dessert wine. If I ever get to Denver again, I will definately be there to eat.

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I'm having dinner with some friends in Denver and have reservation for Fruition. But I've just discovered that least one of said friends was hoping for a full-on tasting menu extravaganza. Will/does Fruition do any sort of tasting menu for a special request?

While I was looking around I came across a review of Restaurant Kevin Taylor, and it seems like it might fit the bill. Anyone have an experience there to share, or any other suggestions?


Tammy's Tastings

Creating unique food and drink experiences

eGullet Foodblogs #1 and #2
Dinner for 40

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  • 7 months later...

I'm sure most of what I'll have to say after a quick week in Denver won't be news to its foodie denizens, but maybe it can serve as a minor update on some well-known places -- a mix of lowbrow and highbrow, as it were.

Keep in mind that my delight in the lowbrow stuff should be filtered through the fact that I only get this stuff once every few years...


As expected, a creditable rendition of upscale Mexican. The terrace was a fine place to eat on a gorgeous evening, and the food was tasty -- though I'm not sure what the fuss is all about with their guacamole. Edible, but in no way spectacular. Same thing for the margaritas -- drinkable, but with a rough edge to them. They were out of the pipian de puerco, so I had salmon Acapulqueno (pan roasted, with citrus-fennel salad and a habenero-passion fruit sauce). Tasty, but a trifle over-cooked and one-dimensional. My fellow diners fared better -- their cordero Colorado (grilled lamb sirloin) and tampiquena (butterflied filet mignon with a poblano chile-potato gratin) were truly yummy. Tamayo won't replace Frontera Grill in my affections any time soon, but it wasn't bad.

The Egg and I

I got dragged here for breakfast not once but twice. I don't know if it's a local (Highlands Ranch) favorite, or if it's just another strip mall creation (what isn't, I sometimes wondered), but it was packed to the gills both times for reasons I cannot comprehend. Pancakes were serviceable, but the huevos rancheros were rather nasty.

Thai Basil

My parents wanted something basic and Asian, near their hotel, and that's what we got. Adjacent to Park Meadows Mall, this place is noteworthy primarily for the friendliness of its service and its fetching wood-and-silk-clad booths. Americanized Thai/Vietnamese dishes -- goi cuon were surprisingly good, as were red curry beef, a sizzling shrimp and scallop dish and a spicy garlic chicken stirfry, but my sauteed eggplant tasted disconcertingly like mint air freshener.


What can I say? If I lived in Denver, I'd eat here weekly. I'd been looking forward to coming back here since my first visit over two years ago, and it was wonderful again. This time we started with yuzu margaritas at the bar while waiting for a terrace table, and couldn't help splitting the fresh bacon starter. The pig is truly a magical creature, is it not? When we got to the table, I took full advantage of their wine by the half-glass options. Had a second starter of candied lemon gnocchi with butter-poached crab with a half glass of California Riesling (Wente, 2006 - not bad, but not the match I'd hoped for) and a half glass of Chilean Chardonnay (Trapiche Broquel, 2005 - perfect!). G. had saffron fettucine with pork meatballs with a glass of very nice Oregon Pinot Noir (Piedra Roja, 2006 - had never heard of it, but it worked well). Then moved on to spice-rubbed lamb tenderloin and a glass of Australian Shiraz for G. and a flatiron steak with bone-marrow and Manchego risotto for me, with a half glass of Zinfandel (Seghesio, 2006 - impressed by the tannic structure, fruity but not a fruit bomb) and a half glass of *excellent* CA Cabernet (Robert Hall, 2005 - we tracked down a couple of bottles at a liquor store and brought them back with us). Then a tasting of blue cheeses for G. and sheep's cheeses for me; the cheeses were weaker than I remember them being before, but everything else was spot on. God, I love this place.

Hickory House (Aspen)

Enter the lowbrow aspect. Went up to Aspen because I'd never been, and ate here twice -- fabulous pulled pork sandwiches for dinner and the world's largest and fluffiest pancakes for breakfast the next morning. Bliss.

Tacos de Mexico

Was jonesing for hole-in-the-wall Mexican, so stopped by this place in the Santa Fe district (wanted to go to Tacos D.F., but it was the weekend and therefore closed). Went for a taco plate with asada, carnitas and pastor -- the last two were the best. Tortillas were excellent, but the tacos could have benefited from a jolt of cilantro and salsa verde. Horchata was appropriately gritty and cinnamony.


May I never pay this much money for a gussied-up steak ever again. I don't understand steak houses, really; how can you charge 12 USD for sauteed spinach? I was happy to get my American beef fix, but still. Started with bacon-wrapped scallops and crabcakes -- both okay but not stellar, and moved on to the meat event. Prime rib for two guests (it appeared to have been carved from a brontosaurus), and Chicago ribeyes for us, accompanied by the aforementioned spinach and admittedly yummy garlic mashed potatoes. I was particularly pleased by the August Briggs Zinfandel (I think it was a 2004), but I never want to pay 80 USD for a Zin again (and that was one of the cheapest bottles on the list!).

All in all, well pleased with the trip -- and looking forward to trying Fruition and Tacos DF, and going back to Rioja, when we're back for a wedding in November.

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The Egg and I

I got dragged here for breakfast not once but twice. I don't know if it's a local (Highlands Ranch) favorite, or if it's just another strip mall creation (what isn't, I sometimes wondered), but it was packed to the gills both times for reasons I cannot comprehend. Pancakes were serviceable, but the huevos rancheros were rather nasty.

I also do not get this place. It's ALWAYS packed, there's ALWAYS a line, and the food is ALWAYS mediocre. I prefer IHOP - yes, the food there is also mediocre, but it costs less. There is also a Le Peep in Highlands Ranch at Quebec and 470, and it's also mediocre, but at least it's a different mediocre. The place to go for breakfast in the Highlands Ranch/Littleton area right now is a place called Toast. I haven't been there yet but our real estate agent said it was good if a little pricey.

Thai Basil

My parents wanted something basic and Asian, near their hotel, and that's what we got. Adjacent to Park Meadows Mall, this place is noteworthy primarily for the friendliness of its service and its fetching wood-and-silk-clad booths. Americanized Thai/Vietnamese dishes -- goi cuon were surprisingly good, as were red curry beef, a sizzling shrimp and scallop dish and a spicy garlic chicken stirfry, but my sauteed eggplant tasted disconcertingly like mint air freshener.

You were right in my neck of the woods, and I agree with your assessment of Thai Basil. It's good, but it's not all that. If you're looking for basic Chinese and you're in this area again, there's a local hole in the wall at Quebec and 470 (about a mile from where you were, about half a block from the Le Peep mentioned previously). It's not worth a special trip, but it's warm and comfortable and again, good basic Chinese. (I'm trying to remember the place's name and it's escaping me...I'll edit this tonight since I'm going right by there.)

It sounds like you had a pretty good trip, at least food-wise!


Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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  • 2 months later...

At last night at Cafe Star on Colfax... *bleah*

I'll start with the good news--the service was good, not very formal, but pleasant and friendly. Also, the tuna appetizer with oranges, capers, and olives was interesting and not too bad. I really liked the dressing with with oranges--it had an unusual combination of flavors that I couldn't quite place, which made it fun. And we liked the decor--the different sizes of inexpensive, round white lights was playful and I like the stained glass piece that separates the dining room from the bar (except they were playing "Zoolander" at a very loud volume in the bar for "Thursday night movie night"--a clear ploy to attempt to attract more customers that was just as clearly failing as the place was pretty close to dead empty at 8:00 on a Thursday).

The bad news was that the rest of the food could only charitably be described as "mediocre" I had "pan-seared gnochi with mushrooms, arugula, olive oil and balsamic dressing." First of all, gnochi were hard, dense, flavorless lumps of overworked dough with an unpleasantly oily film--nary a drop of balsamic to be found. Secondly, my dish, like the rest of the dishes at the table, suffered from a distinct lack of salt. My son had the crawfish pot pie which also needed a ton more seasoning and was waaaay too soupy--it was basically a thin, cream-based broth soup of crawfish, peas, and potatoes covered with a big hunk-o-puff-pastry. Not particularly nasty, but not particularly good either.

The best dish of the three entrees was my husband's bone-in pork loin, which needed salt, but was at least tender, and was accompanied by a delicious sweet potato-vegetable medley.

We skipped dessert in favor of Ben & Jerry's we had in the freezer--after that uninspired meal, we weren't willing to risk it.

But to top it all off, we paid $75 for a distinctly poor meal at a place that has had a good reputation. Has anyone else been to Cafe Star? Did you have a similar (or better) experience? I hate to see restaraunts fail, but this one, if it can't perform better, seems bound for the dustbin.

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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  • 2 weeks later...

I have been to Cafe Star twice and the last time was well over a year ago. Both times I have left extremely underwhelmed. The food is good but I was expecting more after everything I had heard.

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Just got back from my first trip to Denver - hopefully not my last - and here is my report. I road tripped out w/ friend M who was moving from Seattle for a new job in CO, fun times! Overall we had some good food but found service to be generally lacking polish - Seattle servers may think they are too cool for you and bring too much attitude along with your food, but at least they are generally efficient and otherwise professinal.

Dinner at Rioja - I had the radish, watermelon, and feta salad to start which was a nice array of flavors, then the duck with 'crispy shiitakes' a salad napoleon thing, and a little pot of sesame (?) sauce that was quite tasty. M had a green salad and lamb. Both mains had superfluous fillo garnish, we thought flavors were good but presentation might have been trying a little too hard, kind of a lot going on. I loved the yuzu in the dressing on the salad part of my entree. We had fig and goat cheese beignets for dessert, which were not light and fluffy, despite the server's assurance that it was yeast dough, not just a random fried thing labeled 'beignet' (as a pastry chef, I was suspicious). Maybe the dough was just a little thin, they were cute and bite-sized, so it would be hard to get them small and pillowy at the same time. Our server kept calling us both 'dear' which was odd, as she appeared our age (35/36) or probably younger, and she spaced out on my request for a tea menu until I asked again at dessert (sore throat, tea would have been really nice). Wines by the glass were good - good overall, but not amazing.

Lunch at Osteria Marco - M had gazpacho which was nice with a little kick, we both had panini, really delicious but a tad on the greasy side. I liked his prosciutto, robiola, and fried egg just slightly better than my porchetta cubano, the stronger cheese was more interesting.

Next night, we had happy hour oysters and a glass of wine at Highland Pacific, no complaints. The table next to us seemed to be overgrown frat boys, as much as we enjoyed giggling at overhearing 'chicken tiki marsala' being touted as a favorite dish, we opted to explore more options. I do enjoy chicken tikka masala every now and then... We moved on to Black Pearl for dinner.

I think Black Pearl was our favorite out of what we tried together. Our server was helpful and friendly but still professional and efficient. We shared the salted pork ribs and the fried peppers (padron?) to start, then a whole crispy bass that was beautiful and not greasy, roasted asparagus, and truffles fries. Asparagus wasn't anything special but we really liked everything else.

Once I heard who was behind D Bar (seasoned professionals), I had to go, but the dinner menu looked a little insufficient to make a night of it, so I went for lunch. I had a very nice panini, but was really disappointed that they weren't serving their full dessert menu at lunch, they only had cookies and what was in the pastry case - cupcakes (which don't excite me) and a few tartlets. The chocolate tartlet was nicely bittersweet and garnished with thin sheets of chocolate toffee, but I felt the crust tasted a little 'fridge-y', not soggy or anything, just slightly off. I was surprised that they would keep cupcakes in a chilled case, cold cake is so much less good than room temperature. The space is really cute, except all hard surfaces made it pretty cacaphonous, even without full occupancy. I admit I was hoping for another sweet experience like I had at Chikalicious in NYC last summer, this wasn't it, but I'm sure D Bar will still make plenty of people happy. Also, the line cook working counter service needed considerably more training in the service side of things. Overall, I wasn't impressed enough to drag M back in later to try the plated desserts, maybe next time.

Dinner at Solera - M was more disappointed than I, maybe because it was his turn to pay :raz: We started with a small calamari with Thai peanut/chili sauce, which was a HUGE plate of rings (didn't see any tentacles). We both would have preferred the sauce on the side instead of the squid fully dressed in it, as it was heavy on the sweet chili sauce and too sweet for us. We had salads, no complaints there, but M dared to order paella, wondering in advance if it would be disappointing. He found it distressingly soupy and kept grumbling that paella IS NOT gumbo. I think it may have tasted OK, it was more of an authenticity issue. Even worse, when we inquired as to the characteristics of the Primitivo on the wine list, our server assured us "it's Zinfandel, exactly the same as Zinfandel" Well, we both know that while the grapes are related, they are not exactly the same, so this did not go over so well with us. The other major service gaffe was setting our silver for our 2nd course while we were still eating our calamari - nice to be on top of things, but wait 5 minutes and do it between courses like you're supposed to! I had the duck special, which was delicious, but a lot more rare than what I was expecting medium rare to look like, basically a thin layer of cooked meat surrounding a very dark red center. Ice creams for dessert were fine, blueberry thyme sorbet had good flavor but too much sugar to freeze properly, so was slush and syrupy goo. We both felt there were far too many missteps for the fine dining that they are trying to be. Loved the guitar player, however.

There were a few taco stops in there, we liked the one on Colfax next to the rasta shop, great carnitas and not-too-sweet horchata. I can't remember if that was tacos el chorizo, or if el chorizo was the one two or three blocks further east that was good but we liked less, even if the owner seemed really old country.

Saturday we trekked out to Boulder to see the hippies and had lunch at the Dushanbe teahouse. After a bit of a wait outside, we had duck confit empanadas with red bell pepper coulis that were very good. I had the chickpea kofteh (sp?) balls with tomato sauce and pomegranate syrup, which I really enjoyed, M had the pheasant sausage with mashed potatoes and escarole, which he enjoyed but the portion was pretty small. Gingerbread for dessert was a touch dry, maybe made the day before? It was really charming and good food that came out fairly quickly.

Last but not least, pizza from Enzo's on Colfax was totally satisfying for a neighborhood pizza joint.

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  • 2 months later...

Well I've been poking around these forums for awhile now so since I live in the Denver area I thought I may as well start here.

One place I haven't seen mentioned here yet is O's Steak and Seafood in the Westminster Westin. For you locals its right by the Promenade. The reason to go is because it's the only place to try Molecular Gastronomy in the Mile High city. Not an every day experience but it was one that I have always wanted to try.

I finally made it in late June with my parents. My Dad and I both opted for the Molecular Tasting Menu, with wine pairings, while my mom just went with a steak. The steak was more reasonably priced than a lot of other Denver steak houses and was just as good in my opinion.

Anyway on to the real action. The molecular tasting menu isn't strict Molecular Gastronomy. Most of the items were imaginative but not everything had strange chemicals and strange presentations.

Case in point first up was a berbere encrusted pork belly with a poached egg, fermented garlic, and sour cream folded basmati. Unique combinations in this dish especially for Denver, but not exactly the sort of Molecular Gastronomy I imagined from watching Food Network. Anyway the Pork Belly was terrific and everything was perfectly cooked. It was one of those dishes that could only be properly appreciated if you took a bit of everything in one bite.

Next up was sou-vide dill salmon with bing cherry noodles, carbonated lychee, and sweet corn butter. This was more of what I was imagining and it was delicious. I was born and raised early on in Seattle so I am usually a harsh judge of salmon. Still it was really good, I usually just like mine with some lemon and olive oil but the dill and corn butter (placed on top of the salmon) worked really well together. The bing cherry noodles tasted like twizzlers and they worked primarily with the carbonated lychee. I don't know how the lychee were made but imagine big delicious pop rocks.

The palate cleanser we had in between was a Grapefruit and Spearmint space foam. This was made tableside by the chef with a big tank of liquid nitrogen. The chef was obviously tired at the end of a long day but he gave us a very warm thank you for ordering the tasting menu. It was very obvious that the tasting menu was what he enjoyed doing. As for the foam it was a nice palate cleanser and tasted like a big Dippin' Dot (the so called Ice Cream of the future). He made a third one for my mom even though she didn't order the tasting menu and we all had a lot of fun with them.

Our next dish was may ploy encrusted buffalo meatloaf with bleu cheese air, shitake gnocchi, and some bok choy. The meatloaf was very good but in the end it was still meatloaf. The bleu cheese air was primarily flavorless but I didn't expect too much. It was simply a very fine and light foam that had about the weight and consistency as lather when you are washing your hands. The shitake gnocchi was excellent combining two of my favorite things. I think the dish would have been better if the gnocchi were the focus instead of the meat loaf.

Our final course was dessert. Again this was made tableside by the chef with liquid nitrogen. He combined chambord marshmallow, dark chocolate, graham crackers, with cream and then simply mixed it by hand while adding in liquid nitrogen. It came out as creamy and delicious as any ice cream I've ever had. I'm a sucker for s'mores though so that probably has something to do with how much I liked it.

Overall I greatly enjoyed the meal, and I am looking for an excuse to make it down that way again. If you think you may want to try and visit be aware of two things. First is the tasting menu is only done towards the weekend (I don't remember the exact span sorry), so you may wanna call ahead. Second is the chef runs a pretty cool blog at http://food102.blogspot.com/ . If you are hesitant to go and try then you can just check on there and see what the tasting menu for the upcoming week is. You can also use it if you want to write a review and want to correctly remember what you ate.

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Yes, it was actually the Molecular Tasting Menu. If I'm not mistaken it was $50 straight or $75 with the wine pairings. Pretty standard for a good tasting menu.

Anyway on to Panzano. Again I went with my parents on this expedition. I'm a poor college student so I try and bleed my parents for good restaurants as often as possible.

For those who don't know it's a Northern Italian joint, around town it has the buzz for the best caeser salad around. I didn't try it, but if that is your thing then word is you should go to Panzano. Salads I didn't try aside, this is up there with Luca as one of the best Italian places in the city.

The three of us lead with mushroom crepes with a fonduta sauce and white truffle oil. These were purely awesome. The sauces complimented the natural flavors of the mushrooms perfectly without overwhelming and they were generous portions.

Next up my mom and dad split the calamari while I went for the soup of the day. The calamari was good for calamari. The pieces were tender, they were light on the grease, and the breading was very mild so you could actually taste the squid. It came with the mandatory aioli but thats to be expected. Again it was good for calamari, but it was calamari. Not exactly breaking any molds or rewriting any paradigms.

The soup was probably the best mushroom I've ever had. Rather than being extremely heavy and filled with cream they tried to let the fungus do the talking again. If anything it was a bit on the watery side but the earthy tastes are perfect for fall and purely represented the ingredients.

My main course were the "Love Letters". Four big ravioli like pieces of pasta with a filling of butternut squash, cinnamon, and mascarpone cheese. These were finished with toasted walnuts, Grana Padano, a little sage, and a browned butter sauce. A nice sweet dish with nice and light flavors. Everything worked together well and nothing was overwhelming. Enough to fill me up nicely.

My dad had the Cabonara which was as good as any Cabonara I've had anywhere. My mom got the chicken scallopini with polenta and sausage. Nothing special with the chicken but it was prepared well and was even delicious the next day when I rewarmed it.

We didn't get a chance to get desert this time around, but I am hoping to be back. If you are looking for a better priced alternative to Luca than Panzano is for sure the way to go. As far as overall meal satisfaction goes however Luca still gets the nod.

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  • 5 weeks later...
  • 3 months later...

I had dinner last weekend at Bones (Frank Bonanno's new venue, nestled between Mizuna and Luca D'Italia) with my family and we all really enjoyed it. We sat at the bar and watched the chefs prepare everything on a stove not much bigger than my own (okay, so theirs has 10 burners and mine has six, but still--I only feed 3 people most nights).

We started with the Hamachi Tataki--thinly sliced, with edamame and avocado, then drizzled with blood orange. It was stellar. We also had the steamed buns with pork belly (mmmm... bacon) and the lobster pot stickers, both of which were excellent. The folks next to us had the roasted bone marrow and I really wish we'd ordered it. Oh well, there's always next time.

The entrees were fine, though messy (I haven't really mastered the art of slurping noodles with an Asian spoon and chopsticks--at least, not without dripping a fair amount of broth down the front of my shirt). I had the Udon with pork and a poached egg--it needed something, but I'm not sure what. My husband had the Egg Noodles with roasted chicken and lemongrass-chili broth. The chicken was outstanding--moist and flavorful, with crisy skin. And my son had the Ramen with lobster, which was okay, though he thought the lobster was a little too chewy (take that with a grain of salt--he's not big on anything chewier than white bread and peanut butter).

We'll definitely go back, but I think next time I'll make a meal out of the appetizers, which were definitely the stars of the show.

Edit to add a link to their web site: Bones Denver

Edited by BekkiM (log)
Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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  • 4 weeks later...

I was just in Denver for the weekend for the IACP conference and had two great meals with Steven Shaw (Fat Guy) and Dave Scantland (Dave the Cook). One was at O's, which is described here; the other was at Rioja.

We opted for the tasting menu at Rioja, and after a brief discussion of how many dishes we wanted, we went for the full tour. It turned out to be an amazing spread of food -- three "tastings" at a time from each of the sections of the menu (online here), plus wines. The standouts for me were the tuna tartare mixed with fennel and apple and served napoleon style on apple chips; the pork belly on garbanzo bean puree; the "candied lemon" gnocchi with Dungeness crab; and the lamb,which was done perfectly. If there was a drawback, it was personal -- there was a lot of goat cheese, not a favorite of mine. Overall, the dishes were nicely conceived and executed, and the wines were a good match. Great value too -- $75 including the wines.

I'm glad we went there for our first dinner; if we'd gone after O's, Rioja surely would have paled in comparison. As it was, it was a delightful surprise; we honestly didn't know what to expect, and it was a great meal all the way through.

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  • 4 weeks later...

If you are having dinner in the Denver metro area tonight, please consider visiting one of these excellent restaurants, as 25% of the food proceeds will be donated to Project Angel Heart (which delivers wholesome, nutritionally-appropriate meals to people with serious diseases):

Dining Out for Life

“When I was dating and the wine list was presented to my male companion, I tried to ignore this unfortunate faux pas. But this practice still goes on…Closing note to all servers and sommeliers: please include women in wine selection. Okay?”--Alpana Singh, M.S.-"Alpana Pours"

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  • 3 months later...

New Denver bump!

What's the current "hit list" for eGulleters/chowhound types? All prices, all cuisines - I'll make it hard and just say, "what's a can't miss?"

Due to recommendations and/or past experience, I'm looking to visit:

Izakaya Den (or other blowout Japanese/sushi experience)

Aviano Coffee (espresso fix)


I have 3 days, so that leaves some meals to fill in. :-)

"You can't taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie." - Astrid Alauda


Food Lovers' Guide to Santa Fe, Albuquerque & Taos: OMG I wrote a book. Woo!

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  • 4 months later...

So, first post as a local denverite and foodie, but here's my short list of best ofs:

Can't miss place to eat- Venue Bistro

Best complete package-Kevin Taylor's

Best value for the money- Duo's

Best Indian- India's

Best burger- Old school

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