BEST SMALL-PLATES MENU Denver 2006 - The 9th Door
In adopting -- and adapting -- the theme of drunken, lazy, artistic Spanish dining, the 9th Door has deliberately painted itself into a very good culinary corner, forcing the kitchen to stay true to the influences of Spanish cuisine and the bar to the ideal of fully tanked Spanish drinking habits. The menu was designed by consulting chef Michel Wahaltere, but after he left last summer, the crew took his concept and ran with it, offering real tapas in a city already awash in small plates. The menu is broken in half -- cold plates on one side, hot ones on the other -- and includes such wonders as cold Spanish potato salad with asparagus and egg; roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese, rosemary and Serrano ham; albondigas in tomato gravy; pork brochettes and grilled shrimp marinated in olive oil, garlic and chile piquin. For small plates, these are the tapas the town.