By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
And even after all the back-and-forth in this space over Little Ollie's -- which I don't like -- Cherry Creek's sesame-chicken mecca still got an award for its dumplings. Why? Because it makes the best Chinese dumplings in the city. If nothing else, this should prove that I don't hold grudges: Best is best. Same goes for Hapa Sushi: Didn't like 'em and probably never will, but for a sushi rookie, it's the best destination in town.
I love Mizuna, which was mentioned only in one award -- Best Second Act -- but to me, that's an important honor. Too many chefs these days pack it in with the opening of their second houses. They turn to the dark side, the path of the clipboard-checking sellout. But Frank Bonanno didn't do that. Both of his places are great -- in fact, Luca d'Italiawon Best Italian Restaurant -- made all the greater because Frank works at both. And Sean Kelly winning Best Chef means that still (and maybe always), Clair de Lune has the best kitchen in Denver. Dinner at Clair is an event. One you'll remember. One you'll never want to end.
Clair de Lune, Luca d'Italia and Mizuna are all locally owned. But corporate restaurants can do right, too -- and it would be wrong to ignore the best of them. The Capital Grille cleaned up with something like 37 awards, simply because the steakhouse is so amazing. Chipotle -- yes, another chain, although at least a local one -- won its millionth Best Burrito award because it deserves it, because it seems genetically incapable of ever just being good enough.
300 W. Mississippi Ave.
Denver, CO 80223
Region: Southwest Denver
5410 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO 80220
Region: East Denver
100 E. 9th Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Central Denver
840 Tabor St.
Lakewood, CO 80401
Region: West Denver Suburbs
Kabul Kabob -- the exact opposite of a chain restaurant -- would've won two dozen Bests, one for each item on its menu, if reading that kind of thing wouldn't have gotten awfully repetitive. As it was, Kabul won three, and giving it Best New Unexpected Restaurant was my way of saying that it was a strong contender for Best New Restaurant honors. But it had Brasserie Rouge to contend with in that category, and that restaurant's another unbeatable addition to the dining scene.
Finally, the disclaimer. Did I eat at every restaurant in the city? Of course not. Did we snub your favorite taquería/sushi bar/burger joint? Probably. And was this year's list totally subjective and situational? Without a doubt. This is food we're talking about here, not quadratic equations. There are no absolutes. We love what we love and we hate what we hate, and we do what we can with everything in between. If you really feel that we slighted one of your faves or heaped undue honor on some undeserving shmoo this year, let me know. It's email@example.com, folks. Don't be shy. The best thing about Best of Denver is that twelve months from now, we'll be doing it all over again.
And after that bonfire, the slate's wiped clean.
Leftovers: Even as we were laboring over the rag-ends of the Best of Denver, this city's restaurant scene continued to evolve. Next week, Table 6 will finally open at 609 Corona Street. After months of hassles with liquor licensing in the former home of the Beehive, the Adega partners have backed off from their ownership position and turned both front- and back-of-the-house operations over to veteran Adega staffers Aaron Whitcomb (formerly chef Bryan Moscatello's sous chef) and Aaron Foreman (once Adega's bar manager). They're looking at a soft opening on April 6, with dinner service seven nights a week and a standard beer-and-wine license to call their own.
"These are our boys," Adega partner Chris Farnum says of Whitcomb and Foreman. "They're still part of the family. We're always there to help them out with any questions, any problems, any consulting they might need."
Chef Whitcomb is calling the place "an innovative American bistro."
"I don't want to say it's going to be comfort food," Moscatello adds, "but it's going to be more comfortable. Like American-bistro style. They'll be using more peasant cuts, focusing more on technique. Aaron and I came up with the items we knew we wanted to be there together. The menu will have a $21, $22 top while still being creative."
That menu includes a smoked-mussel charlotte with Smithfield ham, rocket and lemon; an oyster Cobb salad; and braised rabbit with crème-fraîche ravioli and oyster mushrooms -- dishes somewhat similar in style to what people are used to at Adega, but different at the same time. And with Whitcomb in charge of the kitchen at Table 6, Matt Ramsbottom is stepping in to run Adega's line. Moscatello's going to need the help: Mirepoix is scheduled to open in the new Cherry Creek Marriott on June 1, and Moscatello is under contract to do breakfasts, lunches, dinners and room service at that restaurant while still keeping things going at Adega.
"Sundays, I won't work," he says. "But every other waking hour, I'll be at either Mirepoix or Adega."
Two days after Table 6 debuts, the Tom Tom Room is scheduled to open in the spot at 1432 Market Street that was formerly home to Tommy Tsunami's Pacific Diner. Although sushi will continue to be an offering, Tom Tom will bring something new to the table, too: robata. This oh-so-Japanese method of cooking and serving involves the preparation of skewered marinated meats and veggies over blazing-hot charcoal grills, followed by family-style service, whereby platters of the stuff are whisked hot off the grill and set in the middle of the table, with dipping sauces, for everyone to share. It's like Japanese fondue -- very interactive and flashy. Think of a fully Asian Vesta Dipping Grill. Better yet, check it out for yourself and see what two American guys -- Phil Schoen as exec with Matt Smith as his sous -- are doing to bring a different taste of the mysterious East to the back side of Larimer Square.