Acquired Taste: Blood Rice Cakes With Timothy DeLaGhetto and Justina Valentine
When Tommy Lee and the team behind the Mile High's beloved ramen joint Uncle opened the doors at this former soy sauce factory turned culinary hotspot, it didn't take long for people to discover the authentic flavors that go far beyond typical American-style late-night takeout. Dishes like their spicy fried chicken with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and bone marrow fried rice have awakened many a taste bud in the Mile High over the past 12 months. And there’s no signs of slowing down.
Newcomers are always surprised to find a vibrant seafood and sushi scene in Denver. And this past year, things only got better with the addition of Sushi Ronin from chef-partner Corey Baker (an alum of favorites like Sushi Sasa and Sushi Den) and restaurateur Alexander Gurevich. With an opening date of January 2nd, 2016, it was the first new restaurant to join the Denver dining scene in 2016 and almost 12 months later, it remains one of the best. The highlight: visually stunning omakase (chef's choice) dinners including a seven-course tasting menu that never disappoints.
More than just a restaurant, this warehouse space that opened in April is also a bakery, marketplace, and bar that often features live music at night and works to bring the community together through fundraising nonprofits, educational opportunities, and a focus on sustainability. So not only can you come here for a good time, but you can feel good about doing so. All this is backed up by food that you'll want to come back for again and again -- from a simple chicken club and roasted tomato soup from the market for lunch to more intricate dishes at dinner like the Niman Ranch crispy pork belly with yuzu kosho, black mission fig, brussels sprout, and radicchio.
When world-renowned chef and restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa opened a new location of his eponymous new-style Japanese restaurant in Denver this past April, it was a loud and clear signal that the Mile High's dining scene had reached a new level of excellence. The space's sleek and elegant design details are echoed in the carefully prepared cuisine for a memorable dining experience from the time you walk inside through the very last course. In a town that typically embraces a more casual culture, the chance to spoil yourself at Matsuhisa has breathed new life into the fine-dining experience.
Troy Guard's been a busy man in the Denver dining scene for a long time. The opening of TAG in 2009 has been followed by bevy of eateries that include go-to steakhouse Guard and Grace, two locations of the taco-slinging Los Chingones, and his spin on Chinese, Lucky Cat (also new in 2016). But this year, he one-upped himself with Mister Tuna, a restaurant with food that reflects Guard's childhood in Hawaii and a name that is an ode to his father. Dishes like the Charlie Guard ahi poke with traditional flavors amped up by the addition of quinoa, avocado, and hearts of palm are an ideal example of how a dose of nostalgic influence and a healthy heaping of modern innovation can combine for an outstanding dining experience.
When this spot opened in September, it immediately garnered attention thanks to two names: chef John Broening and pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom. This culinary couple, a husband and wife team who built a following at Duo, Olivéa (now closed), and Spuntino, haven’t missed a step despite their hiatus from feeding the hungry masses. The menu is touted as New American, but it's filled with global influences with dishes like Moroccan lamb sausage flatbread, Peruvian shrimp, and squid ink linguini. And Lozada-Hissom's desserts are worthy enough to warrant a own stop in (chocolate hazelnut crunch cake bar, anyone?).
Though it's not a traditional restaurant, this new addition is changing the way Denver eats. Continuing the fall trend of halls that started with the opening of the Source in 2013, The Denver Central Market brings together 11 local vendors selling everything from fresh fish (Silva's), charcuterie and cheese (Culture) and ice cream (High Point Creamery) to wood oven baked pizzas (Vero Italian) and slow roasted meats (SK Provisions). All of these tasty options are anchored by a bar where you can order drinks to carry around as you peruse your options. Just be warned, it's easy to spend more time (and money) here than you planned.