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Heat sesame oil in medium saucepan. Add curry paste and garlic, saute two minutes (be careful not to burn the curry). Add onion, carrots, celery, lemongrass, coriander seed, shrimp paste, ginger, galangal and apples; sweat for five minutes (do not brown). Add white port or wine and reduce by half. Stir in coconut milk, cream and lime leaves and simmer for fifteen minutes. Add paprika and cilantro; let stand for half an hour. Strain the mixture and adjust consistency with chicken, shrimp or vegetable stock; adjust flavor with lemon juice (up to a cup), sugar and chile flakes.
LoDo lowdown: LoDo's suddenly cooking with lots of Asian fare. P.F. Chang's, set to debut October 5 at 1415 15th Street (the space formerly filled by Calvin's), isn't the only place 1515 Market Grille needs to worry about--although the five-year-old Phoenix-based company is certainly capable of taking a big, big bite out of downtown's restaurant business and will soon have the money to fund a long war of attrition. P.F. Chang's China Bistro Inc. recently filed an initial public offering; the company wants to expand from its current 15 units to 36 by the end of 1999. Of the nine states where the corporation has stores, only Texas, California and Colorado are slated for multiple eateries.
Paul Fleming founded the company in 1993 with Philip Chiang; it reported $32.9 million in revenues for the six months ending June 28, according to an August 3 report in the Phoenix Business Journal. The Park Meadows site, which opened in August 1997, has been posting record earnings for the chain--and people in the restaurant biz think the LoDo restaurant, scheduled to open later this month, will not only challenge homegrown eateries but also prove capable of taking a serious chunk out of the Cheesecake Factory's crowds.
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Not that there aren't other contenders. Just a block away from both the future P.F. Chang's and 1515 Market Grille is the Japanese Nikko, which opened this past summer at 1448 Market Street in the space formerly occupied by Fettoush (it's owned by the same guys). Around the corner, at 1318 15th Street, is Hi Ricky, a Pan-Asian eatery that debuted last month and counts quick serving times and a heavy Thai influence among its assets. The concept comes from Chicago, where three Hi Ricky noodle shops that wanted to go public hooked up with Lonestar Steakhouse founder Terry Brewer and On the Border founder David Franklin, whose success with growing chains to a certain size and then going public with them has been well-documented.
According to executive chef Patrick Moser, the owners of the Chicago Hi Rickys sold their recipes and name to Brewer and Franklin, who brought in original Lonestar manager Guy Lupton as a partner. The trio created a different logo and expanded the menu beyond the noodle-bowl theme to include more complicated entrees. But even though the dishes are more complex, the eatery still promises four- to seven-minute waits for lunch to arrive and just seven to nine minutes at dinner.
Speed is also what Billy Downs, founder of B.D.'s Mongolian Barbecue, guarantees from the nine stores in his Michigan-based chain. Downs hopes to add twelve more by the end of '99--and that includes the one scheduled to open at 1620 Wazee Street within the next few months. Downs is credited with opening the first Mongolian barbecue restaurant in the United States, which he did in 1992 in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit. Since then, however, Mongolian-barbecue spots have opened in cities across the country, including Denver--so B.D.'s is not, as its PR people have suggested, "introducing Denver diners to the concept of interactive dining."
Denverites already know how to pick out their own ingredients, add a sauce and spices and carry everything over to a chef, who then throws it all onto a steel grill over high heat. And if they want to do it before B.D.'s opens, they should head to Lim's Mongolian Barbecue, at 1530 Blake Street, before B.D.'s kills that modest, longtime LoDo eatery faster than you can say "Genghis Khan."
And just in case that's not enough Asian food for you, you'll soon have another choice--although it will be several blocks from LoDo's eastern limits. Late this fall, Wolfgang Puck will be opening a place in Denver Pavilions that may or may not be called Asian Cafe but will most certainly be Puck's take on the cuisine.
Forget what's going on overseas: The Asian economy obviously is alive and well in LoDo.