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Denver recommendations-please review my picks

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Hi Denver hounds,

Spending some time in Denver and am planning on hitting up Rioja for lunch and Fruition and Frasca (Boulder) for dinner. Obviously I would like to focus on exceptional food specific to Denver or more broadly, Colorado. I have been seeing Colorado lamb recently in upscale restaurants in Manhattan, so curious about who does a great lamb dish here. Am open to all cuisine, and price points but have a soft spot for carefully chosen wine lists.

Further to my picks above, which dishes are must orders?

I would love to know where I can grab a great drink as well-cocktail or wine bar. My preference would be to stay within the downtown core.

Thanks in advance.

SWS

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  1. Hopefully, I’m not replying too late for you. These are all excellent choices, although you might want to consider Rioja for dinner instead of lunch. Their marquee item is the fresh bacon (pork belly) starter, but I don’t think I’ve seen it on the lunch menu. A swankier prep of Colorado lamb graces the dinner menu, although the lamb burger at lunch/brunch is amazing too. Another long-time favorite of mine (and apparently the rest of Denver since it doesn’t seem to come off the menu) is the artichoke tortelloni.

    Frasca is the only place to go if you really want a great wine experience (from appropriate temperatures to glassware to pairing suggestions to an interesting list to knowledgeable sommeliers to every other aspect of service). Moreover, you can go in blindfolded and randomly point at the food menu and still come up a winner no matter what selections your finger happens to wag towards. Get some salumi and frico caldo to start and follow with the four-course menu. Their pork dishes and pastas are always outstanding. Two of their best recent items are the raviolo and the prosciutto croccante, although they are not on the most recent menu they have posted online. They tweak their menu daily depending on what they source. The crudo always seems to be different (from the actual fish--trout to halibut to hamachi--as well as how it’s dressed) but is consistently fresh and zingy.

    At Fruition, I think they’ve had the Potato-Wrapped Oysters Rockefeller on the menu since the beginning for good reason. I really wish their wine selections and service were a bit better, but it’s difficult in such a tiny space to pull it off.

    For cocktails, check out Colt and Gray, Vesta, and Steubens in Denver and the Bitter Bar in Boulder at the back of Happy.

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    Rioja
    1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

    5 Replies
    1. re: rlm

      I'd also suggest TAG for cocktails. But, great choices!

      1. re: rlm

        Thanks for the info rlm.

        Frasca delivered a wonderful meal and the wine list is spectacular. I wish I could have eaten several meals there and was sorry I didn't have more time to spend in Boulder. That horseradish creme fraiche served with the salumi plate was killer as was the texture of their pasta. When I arrived at 6:15pm without a reservation, I managed to get the last seat in the house-they were absolutely slammed with people. Clearly the locals love this place, and with good reason. Service was extremely professional. The talent here is obvious and they are well on their way to great things.

        I liked my lunch at Rioja-the house salad and cubano were delicious. I also enjoyed the meyer lemon sabayon tart for dessert but didn't like the accompanying lemon cello granita. Too artificial tasting. Service was friendly but in a strained, forced sort of way.

        Fruition was also very good. The Alaskan halibut cheeks were delicious but perhaps ever so slightly undercooked, which made them a little chewy (still I would rather that than the horror of being overdone). The Colorado lamb strip loin was perfectly cooked and the accompanying saffron potato "risotto" with the pulled Osso Buco, and pine nut gremolata hit all the right notes. The texture and flavor of the banana pudding was delicious except for the pieces of bananas themselves-they were caramelized but sadly underripe and gave that characteristic bitter tone which threw off the perfect taste of the pudding itself. Service was professional and accommodating. Overall, this was a lovely neighbourhood bistro.

        Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to check out cocktails at any of your suggested spots as I had already left Denver at that point.

        I'm not a beer drinker but loved a variety of the New Belgium Brewing Company's beers and ales.

        After traveling across a good portion of Colorado, I have to say that it was a spectacularly beautiful state-each city with its own flavor and character. From Fort Collins to Denver to Boulder, Breckenridge, Glenwood Springs, Vail and Aspen it was good times all around. I can't wait to go back but next time it will be on a bike...

        SWS

        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

          Thanks for the lovely write-up. Always nice to hear a report back from visitors to our beautiful state. (I can say "our" state, can't I, even though I've only been here for 10 years?)

          1. re: rlm

            I forgot to mention that I also sampled some fine Northern Colorado honey from a local beekeeper. Absolutely delicious.

        2. re: rlm

          rlm, what about Barolo Grill's wine list? Obviously it's exceedingly high end, but if I'm gonna splurge I'm gonna do it on Northern Italy; how's the wine service?

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          Barolo Grill
          3030 E 6th Ave, Denver, CO 80206

        3. If I'm not replying too late, I just posted my denver dining adventures. And I can't say enough about my love for Rioja. You can read my post here:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7050...

          Enjoy!

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          Rioja
          1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202