By Jonathan Shikes
By Alex Brown
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Lori Midson
By Mark Antonation
By Loren Lorenzo
By Nate Hemmert
Street Kitchen Asian Bistro opened in January 2011 — but it took me almost a year to find my way to a satisfying meal at this spot.
A friend and I stopped in recently as the lunch rush was coming to a close, passing exiting groups of cubicle warriors as they headed to the cars that would take them back to their Tech Center offices. We were in somewhat of a rush ourselves, and a smiling, efficient hostess led us to the circular booth in the boxy, photo-adorned dining room, which has a view of both the open kitchen and a slice of the bar beyond a partition at the rear.
Our server was exceptionally talkative, but he got the message when we told him of our time constraints and ordered a handful of favorites, ignoring most of the regular menu as well as the lunch specials — and he made sure all of those dishes came out of the kitchen quickly. We made equally fast work of the ginger-spiked chicken gyoza, savoring the chewy wrappers that had been crisped along the edges more than the slightly dried-out chicken within, although some vinegared soy sauce revived it. From there we took on the Street Kitchen's take on banh mi, which loaded a sliced baguette with thick slabs of grilled pork topped by cilantro, jalapeño, cucumber and lightly pickled julienned carrots and daikon radish. The sandwich definitely needed some sauce, but while a traditional banh mi relies on mayonnaise, this version came with a sweet, plummy hoisin bobbing with sesame seeds. Dunking the Vietnam-inspired sandwich in a sauce most closely associated with mu shu pork seemed a little counterintuitive (so did the sweet-potato fries on the side), but it worked.
10111 Inverness Main St.
Englewood, CO 80112
Region: Southeast Denver Suburbs
Hit by a winter craving, I'd also gone for an order of miso ramen. The cloudy, belly-warming broth was indulgently salty and thick with soy, though I would have loved a little more pork fat — since pork fat just means more joy. A generous amount of pork belly and a creamy poached egg helped atone for that deficiency, and the broth also held a tangle of springy noodles and crisp, fresh bean sprouts. I slurped my way through everything but the bamboo shoots, which were woody and had the metallic tang of a can.
Finally, we powered through a plate of the SK signature fried rice: pieces of pork, chicken, beef, shrimp and spicy-sweet lap cheong sausage as well as snow peas, red peppers and Chinese broccoli stir-fried together until some of the rice had crisped. The whole mess was topped with a sunny-side-up egg — my favorite way to eat fried rice, since the yolk binds all the delicious flavors and adds gooeyness to the crunchy bits. (If I ever had any left over, I'd add another egg and eat it for breakfast.)
Thirty-five minutes after we'd sat down, we paid the check and waddled out the door.
Street Kitchen is owned by chef Mary Nguyen, whose upscale Parallel 17 has been rocking in Uptown for six years. At that restaurant, which serves what she bills "contemporary French-Vietnamese cuisine," Nguyen has done an exceptional job of giving fine-dining twists to traditional dishes from her home country, making it a worthy place not just for dinner, but for special-occasion dinners. For her second restaurant, this one in the suburbs, she planned a broader, pan-Asian place that would draw from the street-food traditions of several cultures. I like Asia. I like street food. I like Mary Nguyen's cooking at Parallel 17. I expected great things.
But on my first visit, I was hopelessly lost from the minute I looked at the menu. It was only a page, but it was a dense page, filled with dumplings, sushi rolls, noodle dishes, noodle soups, soups, curries, fried-rice options, vegetables and sides. In an attempt to organize the madness, Nguyen had added a key, marking every dish with a colored square: red for Chinese fare, orange for Japanese, green for Thai, blue for Vietnamese, light pink for Malaysian and black for Street Kitchen originals. Instead of creating order out of the chaos, though, the key just made things more confusing. Knowing that the veggie gyoza was inspired by Japan or the sweet-potato fries by Thailand didn't help push me in any ordering direction. I was so befuddled that I sent my server away three times before I finally made my decisions.
Bad decisions, it turned out: I didn't enjoy a single thing I ordered that night. It seemed that Nguyen had simply gotten too ambitious and needed to pare down Street Kitchen's offerings to those that actually had some street cred.
Since that first meal, I've returned to Street Kitchen several times. The menu has seen some small alterations — the banh mi I had at lunch wasn't offered nine months ago, for instance — and some minor changes in organization. But it still takes way too much work to discover what's worth ordering.
I could barely eat the pickled-vegetable sampler I ordered a few weeks ago; the thinly sliced cucumbers, parsnips, carrots and radishes in the four salads were all waterlogged and flavorless — save for a sickly whiff of vinegar. Better, although certainly not enthralling, were the pork siu mai, a dish that's usually such a hit at dim sum joints; here, bland pork-and-mushroom meatballs had been encased in gummy dumpling skins. The green curry was another disappointment. Less spicy than perfumy and sweet, it smothered a mix of eggplant, straw mushrooms, more of those woody canned bamboo shoots, zucchini and tomatoes, along with flat, leathery hunks of chicken breast that made me wish I'd gone for a tofu substitute. I should have also skipped the server's coconut-rice upsell, since it seemed like nothing more than a ball of rice dusted with coconut shavings.
Laura, Laura, Laura.
I couldn’t help but shake my head, while reading your review of Street Kitchen Asian Bistro. Clearly, my experiences there, and at most other establishments you have reviewed, are almost always the polar opposites of what you describe.
You called the green curry a “disappointment.” Really? I can’t believe you chose to hang your hat on slamming that dish. A good sized group of us regularly eat lunch at Street Kitchen. The green curry is the single most ordered dish virtually every time we go. These are pretty erudite folks, all of whom have had gallons of green curry in Thailand. They continue to order it regularly, because it is terrific.
Ah, yes, your purported Asian street food expertise ... You meant you visited Southeast Aurora, not Southeast Asia, right? I mean, come on. After having lived and traveled throughout Asia for years, the many dishes I have ordered at Street Kitchen bring me the closest to being back there of anyplace I have eaten in the US.
What really cracked me up was your statement that you were “hopelessly lost” when you looked at the menu the first time. I thought the menu design was rather clever, as did most of our group. Perhaps next time you can ask for the remedial menu.
Certainly, you must be something of a contrarian. All the other reviews I’ve read regarding Street Kitchen raved about the place. My personal experiences there have been terrific.
So, for me you perform a valuable service. If you slam a place, I know I better hurry to get on line for a table. Thank You.
Wow. The traditional Banh Mi has mayo as a sauce? There is no mayo whatsoever in Vietnamese cooking and certainly not in Banh Mi. I'm Viet, have been to Viet Nam many times and travelled that country north to south, never found mayo. The reviewer seems to not take into account her western pallet when trying Asian cuisine. Dined here many times and compared to other eateries claiming to serve street food, STK comes closed to being authentic. Don't get the rave about Cho Lon for example, the chef's Michelin stars aside, a deconstructed banh mi or deconstructed papaya salad, please, not satisfying to an Asian pallet and, believe it or not, nowhere to be found in SE Asia (not to mention how pretentious anything deconstructed is).
Really? Did we eat at the same place? I’ve dined at both Street Kitchen and Parallel 17 several times and although I’ll always love the comforting atmosphere and upscale menu at P17, I actually think Chef Nguyen’s menu at her newer restaurant is far more interesting! STK is for diners who are up for an adventure, and as far as I’m concerned, the only thing that Nguyen may have miscalculated is STK’s location, which draws a suburban crowd that would probably rather play it safe at a chain (P.F. Chang’s anyone?) than explore a unique menu with an authentic variety of Asian street cuisine . Too bad STK isn’t closer to downtown, in which case, I’d frequent it more often and I think it’d draw a more sophisticated crowd of diners, who’d appreciate the vastness and creativity of the menu. Hmmm, was this review written out of Highlands Ranch : )? BTW: I love the Okonomiyaki!
Wow! This is a horribly written review! Very confusing and all over the place, it is like you run out of things to say and decided to focus on the negative things of this 1 year old restaurant! You almost made it personal!...? Please, pretty please tell me were in the Colorado suburbs have you found a place that dares to try such a concept? At least it is courageous (in my humble opinion) Now, Chef Nguyen does not have the best reputation in town as far as her none existing work ethic, but she is an innovator and you have to give her some credit for trying! What do you do anyway… sit at a desk and pretend to be a food critic… were in Colorado have you had “fresh bamboo shoots”? he he he! I have been to STK a couple of time and it was ok, but I do admire the concept. I like to see anyone try it! Much love!
I have been to Street Kitchen Asian Bistro many times and always thoroughly enjoy it. I love the variety on the menu and especially like the pho, Tom Yam Gung soup and the fried rice. It is a beautiful thing to get delicious Asian food without worries of MSG and consistently high quality ingredients. The atmosphere and staff are great - a gem in the Tech Center!
I disagree, I enjoy having a wide selection so I can get whatever I'm in the mood for. I've been there at least 10 times and every time I go I get something new. The L Bomb sushi roll and Tuna tar tar are so good! The Tom Yam Gung soup is my favorite and I also like the pad thai, tuna tutaki salad, desserts and Vietnamese coffee. It's a chill, nice atmosphere too so I really enjoy it.
Totally agree with this review. I eat here a number of times and it just was so hit or miss (mostly miss) that I don't bother anymore. I disagree with Mantonat (what's new about that), about there being no good eithnic places to eat in the DTC/Inverness area. There are many. Yolanda's for Mexican (mainly tacos), Saigon Landing, Pho Saigon and Vy Pho for Vietnamese, Little Bangkok for Thai or Thai Lotus, Bucci for Greek, Venice for Italian, Sushi Kazu, Jabo Bar-Be-Q and so on. Some are a little bit of a drive but you can call ahead.
Actually, you and Mantonat DO agree -- I'm the one who said there were few spots for good ethnic food down south. But both of your lists, which include several restaurants I've been to and several that I haven't, are good motivation for me to head back down to the neighborhood I grew up in and give the strip malls another good, long look.
I was there in December, and had the Pho - it was quite good. The rest of the food may not be wonderful, but I love the architecture - in particular the design of the open kitchen.
"the Tech Center, an area distinctly lacking in interesting ethnic food..."As someone who has worked in the Tech Center almost exclusively for the past 15 years, I'd be happy to show you around for some tasty ethnic food. In fact, in terms of diverse dining, there are more options than just about any other part of town if you choose to look beyond the corporate chains.
I'd be curious as to that list also. Seems from the Tech Center to Highlands Ranch it is pretty lean in good ethnic food to me. Open for suggestions...Let's see the list.
I'm always on the lookout for hidden gems -- so I'd totally take you up on a tour, and I'd be grateful for recommendations.
Pho Saigon, Yolanda's Tacos, El Azteca (really good tortas), Shiraz, Karl's German Deli - all on Arapahoe Rd. Also, Chicago Mike's does a decent Italian beef sandwich, and I'd definitely consider Chicagoans a distinct ethnicity (wink). For that matter, there are two BBQ joints across the street from each other (Yazoo & Jabo's) that are both considered tops in Denver (personally, I prefer Jabo's). Just around the corner on Clinton St. tucked into a barely visible strip mall is Little Bangkok, which does decent Thai served by very nice folks.
Ali Baba and Yanni's - Landmark (although I haven't been to Yanni's since they moved to this location. Still, Denver isn't exactly a hotbed of great Greek food, so it may compare well.)
Sushi Bara on Belleview. Not my favorite, but many people like it. Bambu on DTC Blvd is a good lunch stop, although it's not what you would call "authentic" (which I think is just a word white people use to mean that they can't understand the waiter so it must be good).
Pho Vy on County Line & Yosemite. Saigon Landing near Fiddler's green. Chinook Tavern for upscale German/Austrian. Marco's and Street Kitchen right next to each other. There's a combo Japanese/Korean place that I can see from my office window that I've been meaning to try.
These are all just off the top of my head, without doing any Googling. I'm sure there are more - especially a few other decent Middle Eastern and sushi place. Are they all phenomenal? Maybe not, but most are at least decent and many have withstood the test of time.
I went several times when they first opened, but haven't been back in a while. After checking out the website it looks like perhaps they've ditched the separate extensive dim sum menu, and only added a few of those items to the regular menu. I thought it had the tastiest offerings at Street Kitchen and would order from it almost exclusively. I'm glad the money bags and a few other dumplings stuck around, but I'll miss the excellent soup dumplings.