Dec 30 2009

The Top 100 List: #75 Elways Lamb Chop Fondue

jko

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Elways “Lamb Chop Fondue”

Location: Cherry Creek

Rating: 8.8 (out of 10)

Price: $16

The Skinny: I generally have a bias against restaurants bearing the name of a famous athlete or celebrity.  And not without reason.  Lasorda’s in LA, D. Wade’s in Miami, even Dante (Bichette)’s Sports Grill right here in Denver – All phenomenal flops.  I’m leery that it’s just some restaurant group pushing out mediocre food and using the big name as a marketing ploy.  I also don’t turn into a fawning 13 year old girl over John Elway like some of my contemporaries, in fact, I get a little turned off by the worship.  After having the food, however, I might just fawn over this restaurant… if only it were named anything else.

Their lamb chop fondue was absolutely delicious.  The 3 perfectly cooked lollipops of lamb were flawless in execution and inventive in presentation.  The meat is staged on top of roasted sweet potatoes and sits next to a heated bowl of green chili cheese fondue meant for dipping.  Grabbing the lamb by the bone handle, my first bite of meat was phenomenal.  It was everything I love about lamb – that tender, gamey richness of flavor.  The fondue itself was a playful addition, and as my wife pointed out “you can never go wrong with melted cheese”.  But to have 3 lamb chops as good as this for $16 is a genuine steal.

You win this round, Elway…

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +6 (from 6 votes)

Dec 29 2009

The Top 100 List: #74 Buckhorn Exchange’s “Elk Steak”

jko

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Buckhorn Exchange’s “Elk Steak”

Location: Osage and Colfax

Rating: 5.2 (out of 10)

Price: $18 (lunch)

The Skinny: There’s a tremendous history having to do with the Buckhorn Exchange.  It has the first ever liquor license in Colorado, and the original owner, “Shorty Scout” Zietz, was a living legend – a member of Buffalo Bill Cody’s gang, a friend to Sitting Bull, and the keeper of General Custer’s fallen sword from the battle of little Big Horn (presented to him from the victorious Indians).  It also has nearly 600 heads of dead animals hanging from the walls, which, due to the fact that they were wearing Santa hats, made the mood all the more festive.

Surrounded by so much meat, I was happy to fit in with my order of “Elk Steak” for lunch.  In my head, visions of a sizzling hunk of towering flesh – onlookers glancing over at my plate with approval and envy.  Regrettably, 6 oz will not bring about any such inspiration.  It’s roughly the size of a bar of soap.  Ok, fine – 2 bars of soap, stacked one on top of the other.  Inside, it was cooked really quite well, perfectly medium rare – but the outside was awfully bland.  So bland that I had to slather some butter from my bread basket just to give it a little pizzazz and life.  So bland that once I bit into it, I started thinking about everything else in the room and not at all about what I was eating.  Apparently there is a version with a crust of peppercorns.  If you’re going to order this steak – get it with something, anything as a crust.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)

Dec 28 2009

The Top 100 List: #73 New Saigon’s “Tom Rim (Head and Shell on)”

jko

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New Saigon’s “Tom Rim (Head and Shell on)”

Location: Federal

Rating: 1 (out of 10)

Price: $10

The Skinny: Well… I will say this much about New Saigon: it seems like they might have other decent food options on their menu.  And I overheard the table behind me say that they love the place and go there as a tradition.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that they didn’t order the Tom Rim.  If they did, perhaps they traditionally love to torture themselves with an inedible dish.

I don’t eat the outside of a pineapple and I don’t eat the shell of a peanut (licking the salt doesn’t count).  I’m going to guess that 99.99% of people are with me so far.  Trust me, you’re missing nothing by skipping the shell on shrimp.  Nothing.  If you’d like to try an example of what it tastes like, go and bite into a clear plastic straw.  Now imagine that straw wrapping itself tightly around a juicy piece of shrimp and a decent sauce.  It was mildly torturous.  I left half of the plate uneaten, which may have surprised the waiter.  10 minutes earlier, when I sheepishly asked how to eat the dish, he snapped “WITH RICE!”  Right… like I was asking what to eat my shell-on shrimp WITH.

Skip this one.

**UPDATE: My friend Dave tells me that shell-on shrimp are supposed to be peeled at the table.  He’s got to be right, but in my defense, I did ask another waiter and he said I was supposed to eat them with the shell on.  In any case, when I did peel them, it was a total mess, but the shrimp inside was fairly decent, I will admit.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: -1 (from 3 votes)

Dec 27 2009

The Top 100 List: #72 Red Trolley’s “Banana-Chocolate-Peanut Butter Gelato”

jko

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Red Trolley’s “banana-chocolate-peanut butter gelato”

Location: Highlands

Rating: 6 (out of 10)

Price: $4.50

The Skinny: I really root for Red Trolley.  They don’t use anything artificial, they’re against high fructose corn syrup, and everything they serve has zero trans fats.  I’d love for that to do well – for it to catch on everywhere.  The trade-off, of course, is higher price, which the health-conscious will tell you is better to pay up now than later when you’re in the hospital after eating the cheap, poisonous stuff.  An ounce of prevention, they say.  To RT’s credit, the banana-chocolate-peanut butter gelato is almost worth the health mark-up.  Its flavor alone nearly justifies it, which is the only way to convert the masses.

To me, the ultimate standard of Chocolate-Peanut Butter ice cream is Baskin Robbins.  Coming upon the ribbons of frozen peanut butter in the mix was like finding gold.  They were solid & sugary, and outrageously good.  If there was only one fault in this version from Red Trolley, it is the peanut butter.  I found it to be more “gloppy” than solid.  More “natural” than sugary.  Perhaps that’s intentional since they’re into the whole health thing.  I dunno.  If that’s the case, it seems odd considering I’m ordering dessert, and their waffle tasted as though it was dipped in a pool of granulated sugar.  But that was the only fault.  The rest was very, very good.  The chocolate and banana did what they’re there to do, and the cone, in it’s sugary glory, was delicate and surprisingly excellent.  Made me keep cheering for Red Trolley.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Dec 26 2009

The Top 100 List: #71 Deluxe’s “Steak Tartare”

jko

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Deluxe’s “Steak Tartare”

Location: Broadway

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Price: $10

The Skinny: I understand that raw meat doesn’t always agree with everyone, but I won’t turn it down.  So long as it’s executed well, I’ll risk the looming threat of bacteria & illness and live life on the edge.  At Deluxe the wager is rewarded – their “Steak Tartare” is simple, delicate, and flavorful.

The chilled meat is mixed with a bunch of can’t-miss ingredients (garlic, parmesan, truffle, capers, onion) and is topped with a tiny quail egg.  I found the meat to be very tender and light, doing well with the focaccia provided or even by itself.  The egg didn’t do as much for me as I had hoped, but it added a slight dimension to the dish and gave it some great color in the presentation.  Overall, it worked very well for me.  Great flavor.

PS – Ever wonder what the “Tartare” is all about with Steak Tartare?  It comes from the Tartar people of Russia (of whom Charles Bronson was a member).  Apparently, they didn’t have time to cook the meat, so they put it under their horse’s saddles to tenderize it and have it ready to eat by the end of their ride.  Raw meat on a horse’s back all day?  Did they have a…Death Wish?

I’ll be here all week folks, please tip your waitresses.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)

Dec 25 2009

Happy Holidays!

jko

Jeremy Vegas

Happy Holidays to everyone out there.  This will be my baby boy’s first Christmas ever – really looking forward to it!

More reviews to come starting the 26th:

- Deluxe’s “Steak Tartare”

- Red Trolley’s “Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana gelato”

- New Saigon’s “Tom Rim” (absolutely inedible…)

- Buckhorn Exchange’s “Elk Steak”

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Dec 24 2009

The Top 100 List: #70 Le Central’s “Moulets et Frites (mussels and fries)”

jko

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Le Central’s “Moules et Frites (mussels and fries)”

Location: Broadway and 8th

Rating: 6 (out of 10)

Price: $10

The Skinny: Wait… aren’t Mussels and Fries a Belgian thing?  Some quick research turns up that it indeed is, and not just a “thing” but in fact their national dish.  Not one to let the Belgians have their day in the sun, the French have taken over this dish in Denver at the staging point of Le Central – proving once and for all that, yes, the French can pillage and conquer another country just like everyone else.

Le Central is a charming place.  Cozy, intimate, and inviting.  Just the kind of place that a bowl of Mussels and Fries can warm up the soul on a chilly winter afternoon.  It didn’t disappoint.  The 30 or so mussels come in big bowls of broth, the ingredients of which you choose beforehand from what seems like 15 different varieties.  I had mine with mushrooms, white wine, onions, garlic, cream, and brandy – but they had some others that I nearly tried (bacon and mustard caught my eye, go figure).

The mussels tasted perfectly fine – like most other mussels I’ve ever had in my life, and the broth was hot, creamy, and flavorful.  The unlimited fries, on the other hand, were a little disappointing.  As 50% of the dish’s namesake, it needs to be considered, and on this occasion they were average at best.  There was no crunch to them.  It was almost like they were steamed prior to arriving at my table, and that had taken all of the bite out of them.  I naturally finished my first plate of them, but no more!  Overall, I was a fan of the whole thing, but in occasional doses.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +2 (from 4 votes)

Dec 23 2009

The Top 100 List #69: Ninth Door’s “Aguacate (Flash fried avocado)”

jko

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Ninth Door’s “Aguacate (flash fried avocado)”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 5.8 (out of 10)

Price: $6

The Skinny: I’ve been to Ninth Door a few times in the past and always enjoyed the time.  Something about the trendy vibe and the small plates that I’m into.  I get to play cool for an hour and try plate after plate of small, satisfying bites – how can that go wrong?  But, as far as tapas go, The Med in Boulder will always have my heart.  And not just because of their policy of hiring attractive waitresses (a well known fact among CU students) – their food and prices are awesome.  Janet Reno could serve me their tapas and I would still be in love.

Moments after our waiter (looking nothing like Janet Reno incidentally), dropped off the Aguacate, I was pretty sure I would dig it.  A deep fried avocado served with pico de gallo?  Pleeease.

First bite: very good.

Second bite: pretty good.

Third bite: just ok.

By the time I was done with it, I was ready to move on.  My biggest criticism is that it sorely lacked salt, which is mandatory to bring out the amazing flavor of an avocado.  And I felt that the creamy goodness of the fruit got a little buried under the breading. Overall it started off great, and then faded like a stick of bubble gum, finally settling in at just above average.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: -1 (from 5 votes)

Dec 22 2009

The Top 100 List: #68 Morton’s Mini Prime Cheeseburgers

jko

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Morton’s “Mini Prime Cheeseburgers”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Price: $5

The Skinny: Yes, Morton’s is a national chain.  And yes, it’s known for its steak.  So how do their mini cheeseburgers get on a list of must eats?  Because they’re really, really damn good – better than 90% of the full grown burgers in town, that’s how.

The story goes that Mr. Morton met his eventual restaurant partner, Fritsch, while both were working in the Playboy clubs in Montreal.  After tasting Fritsch’s experimental burger for the club, Morton proclaimed it to be the best he had ever tasted, and still serves it large and small to his patrons 40 years later.

I was pretty surprised by how much I liked these little guys.  I guess I generally expect mini burgers to be inferior to full versions.  Years of round patties burned to hell and awful bun-to-meat ratios have jaded me.  Not these.  These were cooked to a juicy medium rare, with just the right amount of toppings and bun to compliment the meat.  After polishing off a plate of them, I nearly said to the waitress “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for more cheeseburgers today”… (bonus points to the first person to get that reference.)

*And “Jen” gets the points!

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Dec 21 2009

The Top 100 List: #67 Oceanaire’s “Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes”

jko

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Oceanaire’s “Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Price: $16 (appetizer)

The Skinny: Lots of hype around this dish.  When talking to other foodies, a few pointed to these crab cakes as their favorite on the whole must-eat list.  And certainly a $31 price tag for the dinner portion (2 cakes) makes that promise.  But for me, it didn’t match up to the hype.

Don’t get me wrong – it was good.  Probably even very good.  The best bites were silky and tender, the soft pearls of crab barely held together by fillings.  It was almost a naked crab mound, except for the tiny bit of mayo, egg and bread.  But it’s this simplicity that some love about the dish that I didn’t.  I like my crab cakes to have a crunch and a “bite” to the seared outside.  It’s the blending of the soft and crispy textures that hooks me.  This was more one-note.  My apologies to Denver’s crab connoisseurs.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +2 (from 6 votes)

Dec 20 2009

The Top 100 List: #66 Jing’s “Miso Sea Bass”

jko

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Jing’s “Miso Sea Bass”

Location: Tech Center

Rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

Price: $25

The Skinny: After roughly 20 minutes at the table, my wife says to me, “I can’t decide if I like the décor, or if I think it’s trashy”.  I’m amused, and then I look around and think the same thing.  Lots of purple, lots of white, possibly some velvet – a bunch of frilly things.  As if Prince just walked in off the street and designed the whole room.  But, onto the dish…

Their miso-glazed sea bass was very good.  The sauce was sweet & light – working well with the delicate fish.  On this instance, I thought the execution was a little imbalanced – my fish was cooked a little too long and made the sea bass more firm in some parts than it should have been.  In other parts, however, it was tender and soft, giving a glimpse of what the whole dish should/could have been, which was excellent.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)

Dec 19 2009

The Top 100 List: #65 Snooze’s “Pineapple Upside Down Pancake”

jko

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Snooze’s “Pineapple Upside Down Pancake”

Location: Ballpark

Rating: 9 (out of 10)

Price: $6

The Skinny: Certainly the worst kept secret in town is that Snooze is tops for breakfast. With wait times lasting as long as 2 hours on the weekends, it’s no wonder the ultra-cool label has been lost. But for those who wait (or go during the week, people!), the food is clearly worth it.

Take their signature dish, the Pineapple Upside Down pancake: Caramelized chunks of pineapple, fluffy, crispy, hot pancake, and a melting cinnamon butter topping. Much too big for one person, so settle in with some company and listen for the “mmmm” after each bite.

PS – Little known fact: the restaurant owner has some pretty decent street cred. He used to run The Chop House, Mao, and Sushi Den, widely considered the top sushi restaurant in town.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +2 (from 8 votes)

Dec 18 2009

The Top 100 List: #64 Star Kitchen’s Dim Sum

jko

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Star Kitchen’s “Dim Sum”

Location: Federal and Mississippi

Rating: 8 (out of 10)

Price: varies but always under $4

The Skinny: I’ve always heard of Star Kitchen.  And always with glowing praise -  “The go-to spot for Dim Sum in all of Denver” they say.  Walking up to the door, my eye catches a sign that reads:

“Top 100 Chinese Restaurant in the Country – candidate.”

Candidate?  They give signs simply for being considered for a top 100 list?  I’m guessing they didn’t get in since I didn’t see an adjoining poster for the real deal. Maybe the judges didn’t try their dim sum – It’s outrageously good.

Served off rolling carts, their dumplings are wrapped so tight that once pierced with your teeth, they explode gloriously in your mouth.  It’s like a flavor firecracker.  I had enough to feed a small village by myself, and each was better than the last.  Two of my favorites: Orange dumplings with pork and mushrooms, and the fried shrimp wontons.  I have become a believer.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +7 (from 7 votes)

Dec 17 2009

The Top 100 List: #63 Bistro One’s “Braised Pork Belly”

jko

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Bistro One’s “Braised Pork Belly”

Location: Broadway

Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Price: $9

The Skinny: Bistro One is kinda cool in that it’s fairly unexpected.  You’ll find it on the no-so-trendy part of Broadway, past a furnishings store, and sandwiched between a Spicy Pickle and a Piano warehouse.  But I like that.  I like a place that says “we’re going to open up anywhere we damn well please, but our food will be so good you’ll find us”.  And it’s apparently working, as I was lucky to wait only 20 minutes to get a seat on an average night.

They do a lot of interesting things for a bistro.  Wide ranging things, trendy things, classic things, etc.  In the “trendy things” category is their “Braised Pork Belly” which is plated quite nicely, and stacked together with sweet potato gnocchi and roasted apples.  The pork belly itself was decent – fatty at one end, meaty at the other and caramelized on the outside.  And, as you can imagine, the sweet potato gnocchi and apples really sweetened things up and blended nicely with the fatty juices of the pork.  I can’t say it was a favorite dish, but it was a nodding head “ok”.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)

Dec 16 2009

The Top 100 List: #62 Strings’ Cashew Crusted Sea Bass

jko

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Strings’ “Cashew Crusted Sea Bass”

Location: 17th st

Rating: 8.9 (out of 10)

Price: $35

The Skinny: I’ve driven past Strings many, many times without a second thought to try it.  Something about the 80’s neon and colors that never called out to me, I guess.  But being on the list, I had to give it a go – and I’m glad I did.  In yet another example of not judging a book by its cover, Strings’ Sea Bass dish was inventive, elegant, and utterly delicious.

Imagine tender soft panels of chilean sea bass, dipped in vanilla cream sauce.  Now add just a streak of cranberry puree for color and acid.  It was an incredible symphony of flavors in each bite.  At $35, it goddamn better be.  The surrounding couscous soaked up the vanilla sauce like it should and added some texture, but the remaining veggies were slightly uninspired.  Still one of the better dishes I’ve had on the whole list.  Highly recommended.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +4 (from 6 votes)

Dec 15 2009

The Top 100 List: #61 Panzano’s “Capesante con Risotto”

jko

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Panzano’s “Capesante con risotto”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Price: $24

The Skinny: For me, Panzano has established itself as one of the standards in Denver.  If you’re craving Italian where anything on the menu is great,  on the list towards the top is bound to be Panzano.  Our little slice of Italy right in the middle of downtown.  Why, even a college girl could get wrongly convicted of murder here… allegedly.

The dish itself was plated beautifully, and the taste was light and creamy throughout.  Scallops were seared to a mouthwatering golden brown.  Risotto was rich and well seasoned.  The combination of basil oil, raisins, and lemon nage gave it a brightness that felt refreshing.  I only wish there was more of it, particularly for $24.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Dec 14 2009

The Top 100 List: #60 Arada’s Doro Wat

jko

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Arada’s “Doro Wat”

Location: Santa Fe

Rating: 5.5 (out of 10)

Price: $10.50

The Skinny: I am no expert on Ethiopian dining, that’s for sure.  Nor do I hide it well either.  After asking the waitress/cook for a fork, she smiled at me with amused pity and suggested that I use the things at the end of my arms (my hands).  Ohhhhh snap!!  In your face, uncultured American, IN YO FACE!

Hands in full use, I dug into the Doro Wat – a chicken dish that takes 10 hours to cook, and is served along with a few sides atop a thin spongy flatbread.  The flatbread is interesting because of its uniqueness – half crepe, half bread, it tasted decent and did a pretty good job as a wrapper to the chicken and 4 sides on the plate.  The idea is to jam everything together in a strip of the flatbread and let them blend together in your mouth.  I found the sides to be a little above average in flavor, but mostly the chicken was a letdown.  Overcooked and dry.  Not even the scorching spicy heat could save it.

Overall, it was something different and decent.  And I’m not really convinced I got their best shot.  If the chicken was cooked to be tender, it could go up to a 6.5.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: -2 (from 2 votes)

Dec 13 2009

The Top 100 List: #59 The Wine Loft’s “Brie en Croute”

jko

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The Wine Loft’s “Brie en Croute”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 5.5 (out of 10)

Price: $10

The Skinny: My feeling is that if you include a national chain on this list (which Wine Loft is), the must-eat there better be a total knockout.  It better be leaps and bounds over anything local.  So walking through the door, I had high expectations.

As an avid maker of Brie en Croute for years and years, I was excited to try someone else’s take on it.  Maybe they could put a twist on it that would reinvent it for me.  Once the plate arrived, I noticed the balsamic glaze, the sprinkle of walnuts, and the other elements on the plate – it looked like things were going in the right direc…. Wait….Where the hell was the puff pastry??  Where was that perfectly light and flaky shell?  Where was the buttery goodness wrapping the whole thing up?  WHERE DAMMIT?  In its place was an imposter.  An inferior outside in taste, texture, and plain ol’ tradition.  It was like an anchor to the dish.  No matter how good the brie and outside components were, no matter how funny the phallic shape of the pastry, the plate could not be saved

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Dec 12 2009

The Top 100 List: #58 Venue’s “Shrimp and Grits”

jko

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Venue’s “Shrimp and Grits”

Location: Highlands

Rating: 8 (out of 10)

Price: $17

The Skinny: Venue really nailed this one.  Their shrimp and grits are a perfect example of taking something beloved and soulful and making it exciting.

The dish is said to have originated as a breakfast for Carolina fishermen, but has since become a southern staple, as commonplace in the south as pickup trucks and charm.  So it’s refreshing when a restaurant uses it in a way you may not have had before, keeping it traditional, but with a twist.

Venue’s twist is the green and thai chile mix surrounding the grits, which is meant to compliment every bite.  A really wonderful and well thought out addition, in my opinion.  It just went together amazingly well.  The dense and creamy grits mix with the fresh, spicy chilies and leave your mouth in a very agreeable state of slow burn.  The mouth pleasantly burns, the endorphins rush, and the stomach is full.  Strong plate.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +5 (from 7 votes)

Dec 11 2009

The Top 100 List: #57 India’s Restaurant’s “Saag Paneer”

jko

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India’s Restaurant’s “Saag Paneer”

Location: Tiffany Plaza (Whole Foods Hampden)

Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Price: $8

The Skinny: I love Indian food.  I love the sauces, the curry, the westernized flavors from years of English influence… mmmm – imperialism never tasted so good.

India’s Restaurant gets it all right and their Saag Panner definitely lives up to their excellent reputation.  It was creamy and smooth, and seasoned just perfectly.  In another life, it could have been a centerpiece – surrounded by chips and served as a spinach dip at any number of restaurants.  Here it is just another well made component in a deep bench of good dishes at India’s.  Solid effort and execution.

(PS – don’t hate on the picture -  I know it’s not entirely flattering.  Such is the life of a green creamy dish)

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +5 (from 5 votes)

Dec 10 2009

The Top 100 List: #56 Rioja’s “Beignets”

jko

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Rioja’s “Beignets”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 9.5 (out of 10)

Price: $7

The Skinny: Wow…  I guess I should have seen it coming with Chef Jen’s stellar reputation, but wow.  I think I have a pretty decent background in Beignets, having tried a half dozen different types in New Orleans, including those of the famed “Café DuMonde”.  This blew all of them away.  Handily.

These soft, crispy pillows will literally melt in your mouth.  The creamy inside is filled with 2 types of cheeses and fig, and although this sounds like a lot, it’s all very light – almost like a custard.  The outside is dusted with powdered sugar, and lays on streaks of a port wine and fig reduction.  Absolutely delicious – every single bite.  The pillows burst with flavor and have a perfect soft crunch that is insanely sweet and addicting.  This is the best that Beignets get.

**Update: A friend pointed out that the credit for this dish really shouldn’t all go to Jen Jasinski, but rather to Eric Dale, the pastry chef at Rioja.  Completely agree.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +9 (from 9 votes)

Dec 9 2009

The Top 100 List: #55 O’s “Tableside Sorbet”

jko

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O’s “Tableside Prepared Sorbet”

Location: Westminster

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Price: $12

The Skinny: First off: this is certainly a must-eat in Denver.  However, this is not because of the flavor of the sorbet, which was pretty damn good, but for the ultra-cool presentation.  The dish is prepared tableside with a few components, the highlight of which is the ridiculously fun liquid nitrogen.  As the ingredients are added, they’re combined with a pour of the freezing liquid.  Like a sorcerer in a white shirt and tie, the preparer churns the goo and a white fog bubbles from the container and crawls out over the table. The flavor of the finished product is decent, like a smooth frozen daiquiri without the booze.  But as is repeated far too often, it’s the journey and not the destination that matters.  Once again, frozen dessert is there to show us the keys to life…

Denverites: remember the name Ian Klienman.  As creator of this dish and a highly respected rising chef in Denver, this is a name you will hear lots more about, I guarantee it.  The tableside sorbet is just the tip of the iceberg as far as his creativity goes.  He’s done Bloody Mary popcorn in liquid nitrogen, a 148° egg, and is fondly described by coworkers as the “mad food scientist.”  He recently left O’s and opened a new catering company called “the inventing room” – hopefully we’ll see a restaurant from him sometime soon.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Dec 8 2009

The Top 100 List: #54 Fogo de Chao’s “Pao de Queijo (Cheese Bread)”

jko

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Fogo de Chao’s “Pao de Queijo (Cheese Bread)”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 5 (out of 10)

Price: n/a (included in $38 meal)

The Skinny: Saying you must go to Fogo de Chao for the cheese bread is like saying you must go to the circus for the popcorn.  It misses the whole damn point of the show.  And there is a show at Fogo.  Waiters line up carrying 12 inch spears full of freshly flamed and sizzling meat, carving it tableside for your chest thumping pleasure… mmmm.

And the cheese bread?  Yeah… it’s there.  It sits, lying quietly on the table, away from the action.  Hoping there might be a lull in the meat parade for someone to keep their mouth occupied.  The taste is fine, maybe even slightly better than fine.  But no one – not one person – should go to Fogo and sacrifice any part of empty stomach on the bread.  It’s a waste of valuable space you’ll need for the carnivore ceremony that carries on as long as you can.

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Rating: +2 (from 6 votes)

Dec 7 2009

The Top 100 List: #53 Il Posto’s “Osso Buco”

jko

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Il Posto “Osso Bucco”

Location: 17th st

Rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

Price: $27

The Skinny: “He’s an arrogant asshole.”  Were the words out of chef/owner Andrea Frizzi within minutes of meeting me.  He was talking about Tiger Woods, but I instantly liked him and his straight forward absence of pretense.  He’s the crazy uncle from Italy who knows some hundred year old family recipes like the back of his hand – and the whole restaurant kinda goes right along with him.  Chalk board with the menu, open kitchen, and down to earth, no frills, homestyle Italian cuisine.

The Wednesday-only Osso Bucco was satisfyingly classic.  The lamb shanks separated easily, but not too easily – the ribbons of meat remaining tender and full of flavor.  The surrounding risotto was good, but not incredible.  But what was incredible was the bone marrow.  It was sensational.  It was the kind of plate that, although it may not stand out, makes you appreciate just how good these old school flavors really are.

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Rating: +5 (from 5 votes)

Dec 6 2009

The Top 100 List: #52 The Berkshire’s Fifty Dollar Burger (for $20)

jko

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The Berkshire’s “$50 burger (for $20)”

Location: Stapleton

Rating: 6.9 (out of 10)

Price: $20

The Skinny: How can you not love a restaurant whose tagline is “swine, wine, and a good time”??  There is a lot to like about The Berkshire, but I’m having a little bit of a hard time recommending the $50 burger.  Here is a good instance where price ruins a good time.  At $8-12, this would be a great burger.  Tender Kobe beef, shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, bacon, white cheddar.  All a pretty good symphony of flavors.  But… at 20 bucks??  For me, the flavor value just wasn’t there, particularly in comparison to some of the other favorites in town that are all priced under $10.

PS – The bacon flight app was fun and worth trying – even with its own hefty price tag ($12 for 4 slices of bacon? Really Berkshire??)

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Rating: +3 (from 5 votes)