Denver- 4 quick reviews
I can’t afford to eat out this often but apparently we are doing the American thing by debt spending or doing the OTHER American thing by spending our “stimulus” handout er… long term loan. Either way, here are some short synopses of recent visits.
*Sushi Katsuya – Went because of Jason Sheehan’s review and because it is close to home and because I didn’t want to fight Friday crowds at Sushi Den and because I didn’t want to spend the money I perceive it would cost to try Sushi Sasa or Izakaya Den. I am going to be honest- I don’t find a huge amount of variation in sushi restaurants. I know it when fish is REALLY not fresh (I’ve had some not-so-tasty Uni in my day) but I can’t discriminate a lot past that. I’m not well-schooled in Japanese food so I tend to eat at sushi restaurants the same way everywhere. Maybe start with gyoza, calamari steak or agedashi (sp?) fried tofu. Then miso soup… then a pile of sushi (as my wife craves sushi and has been known to give chefs carpal-tunnel syndrome from overwork). So- unless a place has an unusual presentation (Sushi Den) or really unique offerings (we love the Hapa sushi restaurants) they are typically about the same in my mind. Sushi Katsuya to me was a “typical” place. Nothing super unique, a little dingy but very tasty food. One thing we had which I’d never had before was a spicy tuna “biscuit”. The tuna was almost pureed and then served atop a crunchy baked rice cake. It was very good but impossible to eat. The uni was fresh and fabulous (I could eat a tv tray full of uni) and we had a couple of other rolls that were very good: the katsuya roll (mixed fish, mayo, etc … stuffed inside hollowed out cucumber) was crunchy, rich and delicious. The salmon skin roll suffered from a more-typical-than-usual amount of fishiness as though the skin had been toasted from fish-past-its-prime. Best thing we had was the cornily-named but fantastic “Marilyn Mon Roll” (menu description verbatim: "Spicy tuna, spicy albacore, spicy scallop, smelt eggs with avocado and soy pepper”). It was much better than this description would lead you to believe.
We’ll be back because it’s close and the prices were very reasonable. Service very attentive as well. Warning- they say they have some cocktails but the waitress didn’t know exactly what they had. We stopped for a pre-game martini at the Aurora Summit (a great old-school cocktail bar).
*The Oven – The trilateral commission (6 year old twins and a 2 year old feral daughter) just love this place and so do we. This was visit 3 (or 4) and it’s consistently wonderful. White oak burning pizza oven, commitment to local sourcing and organics, fun pizza toppings, house made mozz and great salads. What’s not to love? Okay- they don’t do cocktails either.. that’s a minor issue. First clunker we’ve had there: skip the $5.00 bowl of olives. These tasted EXACTLY like someone went to the olive bar at Safeway and filled up a plastic tub. There’s nothing wrong with them, just nothing special. The menu said green cerignolas and there wasn’t one of those beauties in sight. Floor manager guy (owner?) agreed that cerignolas are great and that next time he’d make sure I got some. There won’t be a next time for those olives. Pizzas were fabulous: spousal unit had bianco (ricotta, mozz and parm topped with fresh rosemary (which was oregano or marjoram last night) and I had the special which was pepperoni (tastes like “artisan” uncured pepperoni but I may be wrong), oven cured tomatoes and spicy tomato sauce. Salads are always good although we had the roasted veg last night and that is more of a “winter” salad. Should have stuck with the favorite: goat cheese and prosciutto and weeds. The doughnut dessert is not to be missed (chocolate/espresso mascarpone). Wines are reasonable and well-chosen. A nice touch: like Pasquini’s- the kids get to play with dough before the meal. Unlike Pasquini’s The Oven bakes it with cinnamon/sugar in the pizza oven so they can have it with ice cream for dessert.
*Rodney’s Burgers – We love Rodney’s (yes, we are that old) and the new burger venture is a pretty good spot as well. Beef, chicken or bison with 20+ topping choices (most free) and fries. Buns are fresh (eggy?) and pretty good but with all those topping choices I’d love to get a swing at some focaccia, crusty sourdough or other non-bland burger handles. One big plus: sweet potato fries are an option. A gripe- ventilation is none-too-solid and the place smells of deep fryer to a huge degree. I know I’ve posted about ventilation before. I’m cursed with a sensitive nose. No website that I can find but this *appears* to be a legitimate half-off deal. No promises as I haven’t tried it:
*Snooze- First try this morning! Wow. The hype is deserved. Rode my bike downtown and met a friend at 7:30. They were already on a wait (10 mins or so for us) but they have free coffee to keep the jones at bay while you cool your heels. Whereas I’m just about through-being-cool I still appreciated very much the hip (or post-hip) design in play. I wish my whole house looked twentieth century modern. This place has a very Bay Area feel to it but it’s not just a pretty face. Food was executed flawlessly. I had a simple omelet (chorizo, poblanos and cheddar cheese) with toasted Udi’s sourdough (that was just perfect- like it had been grilled in Italy, not put into a toaster) and home fries. The potatoes are unique in that they apparently flat-top the potatoes until they are alternately crispy / juicy and then put them into a timbale mold to serve… very pretty. Amigo had a ham Benedict (with smoked cheddar hollandaise) that he must have loved because I didn’t get a bite. They even serve good coffee! Usually places with good coffee don’t have good food and versa-vice. We’ll definitely be back and this may just replace Lucille’s as my “destination breakfast” joint.
Thanks for the reviews ebone, I've been wanting to try snooze for a while now ( a little way from where we live, and we're late sleepers). I think that this review is just the excuse I need. We've been debating at work over the pizza. Some of my co-worker swears by the oven, while some of us prefer Virgilio's. I was wondering if you've had a chance to try Virgilio's and what was the preference?
Calibretto- I loved Virgilio's pie but only have one stop there so far so not a lot of data. From a restaurant experience perspective I'd put The Oven ahead (less strip-mall feel, non-traditional layout, design and offerings) and I'd also put them slightly ahead on pizzas based on my small sampling because the wood fired oven makes a difference. Some may like it less because of the wood flavor- it's personal preference. More toppings at Virgilio's. There's room for both of them in my life :-) Can't wait to go back to V's. Probably still my favorite pizza in Denver (although haven't had in a year) is Parisi in North Denver. Southern Italian-style pie like The Oven.
Also big fans of Pasquini's (when they get the order right), Proto's, Basil Doc's, Subway on 38th, Two Fisted Marios and that dumpy NY place on Broadway (Famous??). Never got to try Benjiamano's before it closed but heard they had true Chicago style pie. Why can't anyone outside the windy city make this stuff? I guess I'm glad we don't because I'd be 300 lbs if we had one of the places in Denver.
Has anyone tried the Il Vicino on Broadway @6th? Apparently wood-fired pie?
We had a unique style of pizza in Bay Area (Megan- did you ever go to Vicolo or Ruby's?) that was deep-dish style but had a pronounced cornmeal flavor in the crust. Wouldn't want it every time but I do miss it.
I'm with you on Snooze & Rodney's (the original); I've gotta check out The Oven, and I hadn't heard about Rodney's Burgers! Awesome! Thanks for the tip.
I'm with you about sushi, for that matter, too. Assuming the regular menu shows similar range, and assuming the chefs show basic competence, I'm not likely to notice too many differences between the nigiri at one place vs. that of another. I have to do omakase to really feel strongly about a place (like Sasa).