Jan 26 2010

The Top 100 List: #90 Barolo Grill’s “Anatra al Barolo (braised duckling)”

jko

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Barolo Grill’s “Anatra al Barolo (braised duckling)”

Location: Cherry Creek

Rating: 5.5 (out of 10)

Price:  $24

The Skinny: “Some people either love this dish or hate it” cautioned the waiter as I ordered their signature dish, the Braised Duckling.  Although I can’t say I hated it, I completely get the polarization.  The baby duck is braised in a red wine and kalamata olive liquid, giving the outside of the bird a deep purple hue and making it taste awfully bitter.  At half the price, it wouldn’t crack my must-eat list, let alone at $24.  Sure, I’ll give credit that the duck was fairly tender, but I just couldn’t get past the persistent jab of the outside flavor.

This is, however, not to downgrade the experience at the restaurant.  The service was outstanding.  Truly.  Some of the nicest staff I’ve met of all of the restaurants on this list.  And the food I had besides the duck was very, very good indeed.  I don’t know why in the hell they draw attention to this dish with the word “signature” – they’re better than this.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 24 2010

The Top 100 List #89: Twelve Restaurant’s “Sweetbreads”

jko

12

Rating: Not Available

I’ve been to Twelve in the past 4 or 5 months and had an amazing meal.  The beef short ribs on the menu that night were nothing less than outstanding – so I was really looking forward to sampling their “must-eat” sweetbreads.  Alas, when researching their menu over the past 3 months, it has not made a reappearance.

If there is one issue with Twelve, it’s this.  The menu changes monthly, so more than likely whatever dish you had that blew your mind will be gone once you return.  I was disappointed to read recently that Jeff Osaka, the owner of Twelve, hasn’t quite had the success he hoped for with the restaurant.  And that’s a damn shame -by all accounts, the food has been excellent -  and I can say that the space is comfortable and warm, and the service is attentive.  Here’s hoping he and his ever-changing menu will stick around.  For every Troy Guard, challenging our palate with harmonious complexities, we need a Jeff Osaka, turning out simple and deep flavors.  It’s a great addition to the Denver food scene.

I’ll keep up with the menu, and report back once the sweetbreads come  around.

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Rating: +1 (from 3 votes)

Jan 22 2010

The Top 100 List #88: Fruitoin’s “Pork Chop with BBQ Sauce”

jko

Fruition

Rating: Not Available

Fruition was probably one of the top places I was looking forward to going for their must eat dish.  As it turns out, it is no longer being offered – said chef/owner Alex Seidel (in a considerate email):

“Unfortunately, because of the seasonality of our menu, I think it would be pretty hard to duplicate the dish with the same results.  Some of the produce that was on that dish are unavailable at this time.”

I’m sure there is a dish from here that will take its place, seeing as how it’s one of the best restaurants anywhere in the state.  I’ll have a recommendation up for a dish at this place before long.

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Jan 21 2010

The Top 100 List: #87 Capital Grille’s “Lobster Mac and Cheese”

jko

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Capital Grille’s “Lobster Mac and Cheese”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

Price:  $14

The Skinny: I’ve run into more than a few people who have commented on this dish – heard it said that the lobster mac and cheese at Capital Grille will change my life.  The experience is supposedly comparable to a siren’s call and a beach sunset wrapped into one.  Needless to say, I was expecting big things.

First, I’m happy to report: it is really damn good.  Still, when I exited the restaurant, my life was roughly the same, for better or worse.  The lobster is clearly the star, with the delicious and creamy cheese sauce running in a close second.  A fork full of pasta, lobster, and melted, dripping sauce is a must eat indeed.

But, the dish isn’t without its flaws.  For instance, they heat the top of the dish to toast bits of breadcrumbs and melt some cheese, so they throw it under a broiler with the cooked pasta exposed to the high heat.  The results of which are pieces of macaroni on top that are completely dried out and hard to bite into once served.   And plating-wise, the pasta totally overflows the bowl, which is great to look at, but once you start pulling pasta elbows out to eat, the thing falls over like a  jenga set.  Even with these small warts, it’s a damn fine dish.  And at $14, it’s an excellent flavor-value.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +2 (from 4 votes)

Jan 20 2010

The Top 100 List: #86 Bistro Vendome’s “Pommes Frites”

jko

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Bistro Vendome’s “Pommes Frites”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Price:  $4

The Skinny: About mid-way through dinner, I look around and try to determine if I like the fact that I’m seated outside of the restaurant, in a glorified hallway or not.  On one hand, it feels kinda like I’m outside a café, with chit-chat all around, and fake trees to make the scene.  On the other hand, I’m in a goddamn hallway – with windows next to me of a dark, closed dress store.  I decide to make the most of it and order a small feast for the table, the highly acclaimed Pommes Frites as piece de resistance.

6.5  is where I’d put them.  Better than good, but not quite great.  I don’t know what this odd trend is of putting sugar on French fries, but Vendome and TAG better cut it the hell out.  On top of the crispy, herb-seasoned fries was a sugary sweet syrup.  It deflated the crunch out of the fry and stuck to my hands after every bite.  Taste-wise, it was fine at first, but got tiresome towards the end – the novelty of the sweet flavor wearing out its welcome.  In general, I did really enjoy the herbs de provence seasoning, and thought the crust on the fries were great before it was done in by the hummingbird food.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: -5 (from 7 votes)

Jan 19 2010

The Top 100 List: #85 Izakya Den’s “Calamari Salad”

jko

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Izakya Den’s “Calamari Salad”

Location: Pearl St Denver

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Price:  $12

The Skinny: Izakya Den is basically the twin brother of Sushi Den.  They share the same parent, the same style, the same taste in food – they even share their plates (mine here said “sushi den”).  Anyone who has been on a 2 hour wait at the original Den can see why it was probably a good idea to put a clone across the street.  Owner Toshi Kizaki is creating quite a little empire for himself on that corner of Pearl – recently opening Den Deli just a few steps away.  Between Frank Bonanno’s neighborhood at 7th and Grant, and Kizaki’s area of Pearl, we could have ourselves a good old fashioned turf war.   A prospect more terrifying than the time the Jet’s danced their way into a fight with the Sharks.

Den’s calamari salad nearly caused a similar war at my table for the tasty, but few, pieces of pan fried calamari.  They were slightly crisp and light, seasoned well, and gently drizzled in the excellent salad sauce.  The sauce was a mixture of capers, white wine, garlic, and lemon – a can’t miss combination so long as everything is balanced, which it was.  The calamari lays on a bed of wilted, soft spinach, and some roma tomatoes, which have been roasted and given a dab of yuzu vinaigrette.  My one complaint is that I wished the sauce didn’t drown out the crunch of the calamari, but overall, it was very well done.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 17 2010

The Top 100 List: #84 Duo’s “Brown Butter Cake”

jko

duo

Rating: Not Available

Regrettably, there will be certain dishes that cannot be reviewed beacause the restaurant is closed, the dish is out of season, or it is simply just not being served anymore.

The last of these was the fate of the Brown Butter Cake at Duo.  I look forward to checking back with Duo over the course of the year to see if this makes a comeback, and if it does, I will revisit it here.  Duo is an exceptional restuarant, and I’m bummed that I didn’t get a chance to eat one of their “must eat” dishes.

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 15 2010

The Top 100 List: #83 Locanda Del Borgo’s “House Sausages with Roasted Bell Peppers”

jko

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Locanda Del Borgo’s “House Sausages and Roasted Bell Peppers”

Location: Cherry Creek Area

Rating: 5 (out of 10)

Price:  $12

The Skinny: “Locanda del Borgo” in English translates into “Inn of the village”.  Yes, I looked it up.  The name certainly fits, seeing as how it’s located in the residential part of Cherry Creek – steps away from what I imagine are homes containing stroller-pushing moms and husbands with Bluetooth where ears used to be.   The restaurant itself is semi-chic in a minimalist way – stone floors, brick walls, shining silver, wide open and dark.  Just the kind of village spot to order some authentic Italian with a glass of wine.

After my first couple of bites, I really wished I had that wine.  Maybe it would make me forget about the charred-to-hell outside of the sausage.  It was carbon city.  They should have served it with a grille scraper.  Yeah, the inside of the sausage was good and juicy, but nothing could take my mind and tastebuds off of the awful casing.  After taking my knife and running it down the side of the sausage, painting my plate black, it was redeemed to average.

I will say this, though – the service was excellent.  I ordered a pizza to go, and since my hands were full, the waiter took the time to leave the restaurant and walk to over it to my car.  Above and beyond what I generally expect.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 12 2010

The Top 100 List #82: The Palm’s “Jumbo Nova Scotia”

jko

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The Palm’s “Jumbo Nova Scotia”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Price:  Read Below for the answer

The Skinny: Take a guess at how much the Jumbo Nova Scotia costs at The Palm:

A)    $25

B)     $35

C)    $40

D)    $66

For those who guessed the ridiculous D, you would be correct.  It’s the sort of thing that’s just obnoxiously ostentatious.  A full grown lobster split open end-to-end.  A” big bastard”, as my father-in-law would say – the thing was all of 3 pounds and nearly took up the whole table.  The plate comes complete with a bib that the waiter ties onto you (for the butter drip, of course!), and a guy to crack the son-of-a-bitch open and present you the meaty parts.

Was it good?  Yeah… it was good.  It was good in that over-the-top kinda way.  If I was trying to wine and dine someone and let them know I was out to impress them, this would be my jam.  It’s just such a display.  Taste-wise, the lobster is cooked nicely and is plenty fine and good.  But… I have to say that for me, there comes a point when there is too much lobster.  Go ahead and shake your head – tell me I’m crazy.  Then have this dish.  At the end, you’ll see what I mean – It’s all one-note.  And the lobster is HUGE, so it’s ton of one note.

The waiter, upon hearing my order of an $85 dish (with tax & tip), slightly brightened his eyes and started going off about how I had to join their Club.  It’s a standard rewards club that costs $25 to join.  I was polite, but didn’t express interest – I’m not a normal Palm patron.  The man proceeded to hound me for the better part of an hour about why I should join and whether or not I had filled out my membership info on the brochure he gave me.  I felt like I was in Cancun getting pitched a timeshare.  Come on guy… you’re a waiter at a fancy restaurant, not a salesman at a swap meet.

** Bonus Question: On an average day, how many of these dishes do they sell at the Palm in Denver?  (I asked the waiter to stop him from talking about the goddamn club for one second)

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +4 (from 4 votes)

Jan 11 2010

The Top 100 List: #81 Indulge French Bistro’s “Tea Infused Orange Soup”

jko

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Indulge’s “Tea Infused Orange Soup”

Location: Highlands

Rating: 6 (out of 10)

Price:  $7

The Skinny: Indulge caught me a little by surprise.  Located on a stretch of 38th that’s not exactly glamorous, the outside of the restaurant is fairly uninspiring.  Like you might walk in and get a good home cooked French meal for under $20 bucks.  In actuality, once you step through the door, you’re immediately struck by the sense that this is, in fact, fine dining.  Upscale food, high prices, and I’d argue – something of elegance.   Well, maybe it was the wonderfully fitting French accent of the female owner that gave it the elegant flair.  Who among us doesn’t fall for a French accent?  It was all a much different scene than what I was expecting from the outside.  A pleasant surprise, to be sure.

Their Tea Infused Orange Soup was a solid 6 on my scale, and not with any bad feelings – it was respectable and good.  The citrus of the orange is balanced very well with the sweetness in the soup broth.  Apparently, it’s supposed to have flavors of roasted pistachios in there as well, which definitely caught my eye, but I didn’t taste any of it.  That was my only disappointment.  What was there was good enough to make me finish every drop of the sugary sweet soup.  It’s probably not on my list of Denver’s must eats, but it was refreshing and nice.

* My apologies for the ridiculously bad photo.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Jan 8 2010

The Top 100 List: #80 TAG’s “Szechuan Colorado Lamb”

jko

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TAG’s “Szechuan Colorado Lamb”

Location: Downtown

Rating: 9 (out of 10)

Price: $29

The Skinny: TAG is fairly new to the Larimer Square scene, but it’s gonna have a long run.  The food is inventive and exciting, the chef (Troy Guard) is getting tremendous buzz, and the feel of the restaurant is hip and inviting.  You get the sense that the chef is saying “here – try this.  Yeah, it’s pop rocks on fish, but you’ll love it”. And you’ll love it.  Then, he’ll serve you French onion soup in the form of 5 dumplings on an escargot dish.  And you’ll love it.  As each dish makes you trust the chef a little more, you might allow him to challenge you and push you to try things you haven’t heard of or don’t quite understand

Such was the case with the ridiculously good Szechuan Colorado Lamb.  The perfectly cooked meat is served over a vegetable couscous, and surrounded by a mysterious and colorful “dragon sauce”.  Now, I don’t know what dragon sauce is, and I suspect no one else does either, but you trust Guard.  The plate arrives and the sauce is an eye-catcher.  Vibrant green and red, and everywhere.  The first taste of it was sweet and light with a slight pepper bend that went perfectly with the lamb and couscous.  The lamb, as it should for 30 bucks, was cooked to a beautiful meadium rare and was every bit as excellent as you hope lamb will be.  An outstanding dish overall

TAG has a wonderfully bright future, with its star chef pushing delighted fans with dishes like “lobster caramel ice cream”, and cooking nearly everything in duck fat.  I expect big things from him in the future –  this guy has got to be one of the top 2 or 3 chefs in the whole city.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +6 (from 6 votes)

Jan 7 2010

The Top 100 List: #79 Cuba Cuba’s “Arroz Con Pollo”

jko

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Cuba Cuba’s “Arroz con Pollo”

Location: Speer and 12th

Rating: 7.5 (out of 10)

Price: $17

The Skinny: I had only been to Cuba Cuba one other time than this – and under much different circumstances.  My friend had a thing for one of the waitresses and needed to pretend like we were there for a drink so he could hit on her.  So, my role was more or less like a job.  I was to be the decoy and I rocked the part.  Finally this time, unencumbered with such bullshit, I could focus on the food… and the ambiance.  The latter of which is worth noting, since it is simultaneously hip and island-like: beach-worn table tops, palm frond fans, and more 28-39 year olds in jeans than a U2 concert.

The dish was a total hit for me.  Very, very good – I honestly could not stop eating it.  The dark meat chicken was tender and moist, and the rice was fluffy and perfectly seasoned.  The whole thing shouted with flavor all the way through.  Excellent take on a classic dish.

PS – Friend was turned down by aforementioned waitress.  Ohhh!

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 6 2010

The Top 100 List: #78 Ellyngton’s “Portobello Eggs Florentine”

jko

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Ellyngton’s “Portobello Eggs Florentine”

Location: Brown Palace – Downtown

Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Price: $14

The Skinny: The “charm” of the Brown Palace is lost on me.  Their tan and brown colors may pass for old world elegance with some, but to me, it all seems drab and dated.  I prefer to think of the Brown Palace as the place that the Beatles stayed prior to playing at Red Rocks.  As the story goes, there was a flood of housekeeper job applications by young girls, and money was offered for the sheets they slept in and the dishes they ate on.  I regret to say, I got no offers for my dish once I was done.  If I had, I would have handed over a completely clean plate – the food was delicious.

If you think about the ingredients: (egg, spinach, tomato, mushroom) all of these are soft in consistency, but Ellyngtons does a nice job of incorporating some bacon for flavor and texture.  It’s chewy and crispy, and adds a great salt balance to the creaminess of the eggs and hollandaise sauce.  Speaking of balance, they put a nice ruby-red strawberry on the side of the plate, which I thought was probably there to add color and make the dish look “breakfasty”.  I was wrong.  The acid was very refreshing and cut through all of the cream and fat in the dish.  Very nice note to finish the plate on.

One last thing.  They gave a palate cleanser for breakfast.  For breakfast!  How cool is that!  It was a watermelon lemonade shot.  And how did it taste, you might be asking?  I couldn’t really tell you since I just swallowed a gulp of my screaming hot coffee moments before it arrived.  The lingering coffee just murdered the soft and delicate flavors of the drink.  Oh well, it looked as though it might have been nice.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Jan 5 2010

The Top 100 List: #77 Jonesy’s Eatbar’s “Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin”

jko

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Jonesy’s Eatbar’s “Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin”

Location: Uptown

Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Price: $18

The Skinny: I like Jonesy’s.  It has a good, solid bar feel to the place, even though they call themselves a “gastropub”.  The name is just a bunch of nonsense to indicate that in addition to serving drinks as a bar should, they cook good food too.  Apparently “restaurant” was inadequate – it doesn’t properly describe their array of drink options (23 beers, but only like 3 on tap).  One thing is for sure, they definitely put out some excellent food.

In addition to ordering the tenderloin, we tried the truffle fries and lamb sliders (lamby joe’s), which were glorious – particularly the fries.  The tenderloin was good too.  Tender meat, peppery flavor, sides were above average.  Nothing that compared to their fries, but a pretty good effort and execution.

I left very satisfied with the meal, noting the spot for future visits.  I wonder if, at a gastropub the bartender will listen to your tale of woe, pour your glass full “on the house”, and give you some sage advice?  I’ll report back on this, dear reader…

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: 0 (from 2 votes)

Jan 4 2010

The Top 100 List: #76 Jerusalem’s “Baba Ghanouj”

jko

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Jerusalem’s “Baba Ghanouj”

Location: DU

Rating: 4 (out of 10)

Price:  $5.50

The Skinny: I have no doubt that Jerusalem’s has a very vocal and loyal following.  I got there on a late afternoon and nearly sprinted to claim the only open table in the place, barely beating the other disappointed and slower patron.  Once I did, a quick look around revealed the college-cult atmosphere: scruffy faces, backpacks, hats slightly askew.  I half expected to see a philosophy club meeting complete with thoughtful expressions – perhaps that ended before I showed up.  Regardless, it’s a decent little hang-out spot.  One that’s certainly beloved in that area.  I wondered if it was the proximity to the school, or the food that made it so.

Whatever it is, it can’t be the Baba Ghanouj.  I’m no expert on the dish, but I do know bitter pretty well and this had it in spades.  At times, the bitter seemed almost pleasant, like the taste of unsweetened cocoa, and other times it wasn’t pleasant at all.  In consistency and presentation, it’s very similar to hummus, which for my money had to have been better.

As I was leaving, the table next to me asked what I had and whether I liked it.  I was honest and told them my thoughts.  Upon hearing it, they were shocked and unanimously insisted that I had to go back – I had to give it a second chance.  Ok, cultists, I’ll give it another try… just don’t ask me to start building a village in Guyana.

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Jan 1 2010

Happy New Year!

jko

Jeremy Vegas

Happy New Year to all MustEatDenver readers!

I wish you the best of luck and lots of success in 2010…  and if that fails, at least we can drown our sorrows in plates of Denver’s finest soul-warming food.

Jko

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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dec 22 2009

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

jko

mortons cheeseburgers

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!

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