Cafe Aion in Boulder?
Anyone been? Sounds interesting but the menu is a bit pricey for tapas. Would be interested to hear any reactions from folks who have tried it. Andrew Knowlton seemed to like it in his Bon Appetit article about Boulder being the US's foodiest town for 2010, but since that was more of a puff piece than a review I'm not inclined to just rely on that.
I haven't been but I noticed they are participating in First Bite Boulder Nov 12th-20th. Might be a good time to give them a try!
I've been there a couple of times, once during the day (http://bit.ly/cZXfvD) and one for a pre-concert dinner. Mid-day prices are reasonable; evening is a bit on the high side. But the food is good and fresh. The service can be a little uneven, but the place is so pleasant that it doesn't matter too much. As for the 'Bon Appetit' piece being a "puff piece," it was a feature showcasing restaurants that were pre-selected for their interest and quality -- and the Farmers Market too. It never purported to be a review. The only local reviewer that has been there so far appears to be Westword's Laura Shunk (http://bit.ly/9s3G01).
Monopod - What you CAN rely on with any feature of this sort is that this sort of magazine will have had someone knoweldgable scout locations and pre-select ones that are high-quality. The writer who who does such a reoundup might not include every place s/he visits. Magazine writing is a very deliberate process.
In one respect, they are more accurate than reviews, because a reviewer (especially one who visits a restaurant just once) judges the food and the service experienced that one time (or a couple of times). If the kitchen has an off-night, if three waitrons call in sick, if a major appliance happens to break down just then, a generally good place can get a devastating review. Plus, many reviewers make a point of finding the worst part of a meal and shining the cleverly writtern spotlight on it to make themselves seem more knowledgeable and important. There are some reviewrs whom I trust implicitly; others whose reviews I read just to read them but not to rely on them.
I just ate there for First Bite. I wasn't blown away, but it was certainly good enough that I will try it again sometime.
Started out with a delicious cocktail, a play on dark and stormys, very gingery. Someone at the table ordered pumpkin fritters off the small plates regular menu, and that was quite tasty. Although in some ways I felt it was tasty because it was deep fried pumpkin. Same for the deep fried cauliflower on the first bite menu, it was good, but how wrong can you go when you have a deep fryer (and have a clue how to use it, as they obviously do)?
I had the squash soup, and it was quite good and very interesting/surprising. It was not pureed, which surprised me (and dismayed one of my co-diners). So it was very different from the typical squash soup, it had a tasty broth with big chunks of squash, along with wild rice and sliced almonds. Texturally, it provided a lot of contrasts, which certainly was not expected. I thought the flavor was excellent as well.
The steak main course was good, although my plate was just luke warm (we were a large table, so I cut them some slack). Not an amazing plate, but well-cooked and tasty meat, though it could have used some kind of sauce to make it more interesting. The potato side was good but not great.
For desert I had the chocolate torte. One the first bite website it says cardamon chocolate torte, but I don't recall the cardamon being on the menu at the restaurant, and it came with a yogurt side (also different from the website). The torte was delicious (no cardamon detected) and the tangy creamy side was a great contrast.
I liked the space of the restaurant. It is small, with a fairly large bar. But the space felt warm and inviting. Overall, a good dinner at a place I will check out again.