The Ten Best International Dishes Over the Past Year of Ethniche

This was one of the ten best dishes of the past year of Ethniche.EXPAND
This was one of the ten best dishes of the past year of Ethniche.
Mark Antonation

Two years have passed since I began my exploration of Denver’s international food scene with the Ethniche series. Originally a monthly study of a single cuisine, it morphed into a look at individual dishes and their provenance, as well as a study of interpretations of specific preparations across various cultural groups. The series started with a quest for Hawaiian Spam musubi, and over the years I’ve even thrown in a few recipes based on finds at the city’s many international markets.

With knowledge from so many restaurants — and a little extra padding — accumulated along the way, two years seems a good time to look back at what I’ve eaten and learned. Here are the ten best dishes from the past year of Ethniche eating, in alphabetical order by restaurant name.

Slow-cooked goat with rice and spaghetti at Kin.EXPAND
Slow-cooked goat with rice and spaghetti at Kin.
Mark Antonation

Goat With Rice and Spaghetti
Kin Somali Restaurant
7950 East Mississippi Avenue
303-750-0326

A peek inside Kin Restaurant on Denver’s eastern frontier reveals a dining room that feels more like someone’s home than an actual business, and the food is equally homey and welcoming. Kin’s goat is served on a combo plate with mounds of fragrant rice and spaghetti (a holdover from Italian colonization) coated in tomato sauce. The goat itself is slow-roasted so that the vaguely curryish flavor of the seasoning penetrates all the way to the bone. Blasts of heat from a vivid green sauce, little more than a jalapeño purée, balance with cooling slices of banana — a must on any Somali platter.

Filipino chicken adobo is one of several Southeast Asian dishes at Onefold.EXPAND
Filipino chicken adobo is one of several Southeast Asian dishes at Onefold.
Mark Antonation

Adobo Chicken
Onefold
1420 East 18th Avenue
303-954-0877

Onefold somehow manages to offer the comfort of a neighborhood diner even as it presents uncommon Southeast Asian breakfast and lunch bites interspersed among more typical Colorado fare. A savory bowl of congee drizzled with chile oil stands in for oatmeal, while a simple chicken adobo wafts Filipino aromas across the cozy cafe. Thighs and drumsticks are marinated and braised in a soy-and-vinegar sauce that carries a hint of sweetness. The juices from the chicken and stir-fried vegetables soak into the pillowy white rice, ensuring that not a grain will remain at the bottom of the bowl.

A sandwich with a little history at New Peach Garden.EXPAND
A sandwich with a little history at New Peach Garden.
Mark Antonation

Rou Jia Mo
New Peach Garden
1111 Washington Avenue, Golden
303-279-0400
The Chinese government at one time declared that these cumin-spiced sandwiches from Xi’an were the world’s first hamburger. There’s not much truth to the claim, of course, since burgers can be found nearly everywhere (and Denver even claims to be the home of the cheeseburger). No question, though: The rou jia mo is a rare treat, and New Peach Garden does the street-food sandwich justice, cooking beef or pork (try one of each) until the meat shreds apart and sponges up a sauce evocative of both Southern barbecue and the ancient Asian spice route. The housemade rolls are split and stuffed, revealing a coiled, flaky construction equal to the croissants of any top-notch bakery. Golden is lucky to have the subterranean Chinese eatery tucked away beneath its busy main drag.

Stowaway offers more than standard coffeehouse fare.EXPAND
Stowaway offers more than standard coffeehouse fare.
Mark Antonation

Shakshuka
Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen
2528 Walnut Street
720-636-2374

The Stowaway name is appropriate for this airy coffeehouse run by two globe-trekkers who called New Zealand, Japan and Australia home before setting sail for Denver. And the shakshuka served here has an international pedigree, too, with roots in Israeli cooking but a modern upgrade through jiggly poached eggs perched atop — rather than cooking in — a lake of tomato sauce made smoky with the addition of roasted eggplant. An arugula side salad, a few planks of ciabatta and a tangy ball of shanklish (a soft goat cheese) coated in za’atar seasoning makes for a hearty breakfast before a day of wandering.

Tender braised lamb mixiote at Taqueria El Trompito.EXPAND
Tender braised lamb mixiote at Taqueria El Trompito.
Mark Antonation

Mixiote de Borega
Taqueria El Trompito
10021 East Hampden Avenue
303-750-2345

Mixiote is a traditional lamb or goat dish from central Mexico that originally employed the skin of the agave plant as a wrapper to hold in moisture while the meat slowly cooked in a chile-laced sauce. Agave skins aren’t exactly a common commodity in Denver, so El Trompito seals lamb shanks under foil with dried herbs, then braises them for hours. The result is some of the tenderest lamb you’ll find anywhere, coated in a glossy brick-red sauce perfect for mopping up with warm corn tortillas. And in case you need a serving of veggies with your mixiote, this one comes topped with stewed nopales, adding an okra-like texture with just the barest hint of crunch.

 

Stray from the formula of standard tamales at Tarasco's.EXPAND
Stray from the formula of standard tamales at Tarasco's.
Mark Antonation

Tamales
Tarasco’s New Latino Cuisine
470 South Federal Boulevard
303-922-2387

Tarasco’s may look humble, but the menu — heavy on the cuisine of Michoacán but with other regional surprises — strives toward alta cocina, especially with its sauces and tamales. You won’t find the mass-produced corn-masa bullets typical of many Mexican kitchens around town at Tarasco’s. Instead, the kitchen plates each tamal individually, giving it the spotlight it deserves. A flat, mole-bathed Oaxacan tamal comes wrapped in a banana leaf, adding an herbal note that eludes easy description. Even more minimalist is the sweet-corn tamal — a singular study in corn that’s the culinary equivalent of haiku: brief and to the point, but also profound.

Kow soi with crunchy noodles and toasted chile oil at Taste of Thailand.EXPAND
Kow soi with crunchy noodles and toasted chile oil at Taste of Thailand.
Mark Antonation

Kow Soi
Taste of Thailand
2120 South Broadway
303-762-9112

Kow soi originated in northern Thailand, the home of Taste of Thailand chef-owner Noy Farrell. The dish isn’t easy to find in Denver, but Farrell has added the curry-chicken specialty to her regular repertoire since the restaurant moved to its current location from Englewood last summer. Steamed and braised bone-in chicken swims in a pool of rich, complex coconut curry, where soft noodles lurk beneath the surface. Another nest of fried noodles accompanies the kow soi, adding crunchy texture. House-pickled vegetables and toasted-chile oil round out the dish with sweet-and-sour tang and a slick of lingering heat.

Tortas ATM doesn't try to make street food fancy.EXPAND
Tortas ATM doesn't try to make street food fancy.
Mark Antonation

The Lagunera Torta
Tortas ATM
3143 West 38th Avenue
303-433-1764

There’s no shortage of good tortas in Denver, but Tortas ATM stands out for its commitment to street-food simplicity, with a stack of basic ingredients that add up to big flavor. A soft telera roll gets a hot-pink stuffing of cured ham shank, which is bolstered with processed white cheese, deli ham, guacamole, grilled jalapeño and a seemingly out-of-its-element squiggle of yellow mustard — putting the Lagunera in the same league as a Cuban sandwich. The riot of flavors conjures memories of school-lunch sandwiches, late-night tacos and greasy-spoon fried breakfasts all at once. In other words, it’s one badass sandwich.

Scallops, shrimp and rice pillow noodles at Uncle Joe's Hong Kong Bistro.EXPAND
Scallops, shrimp and rice pillow noodles at Uncle Joe's Hong Kong Bistro.
Mark Antonation

Rice Pillows in XO Sauce
Uncle Joe’s Hong Kong Bistro
891 14th Street
720-330-8487

Shrimp and scallops are ostensibly the stars in this bowl of traditional Hong Kong flavors. But the XO sauce — made from dried scallops, chiles, cured pork and other exotic ingredients toted back from visits to China — is what gives the seafood its lush, dark coating and mystifying flavor. Little bouncy coils of broad rice noodle add a whimsical element that makes the dish a delight. Even in the heart of downtown’s tourist zone, Uncle Joe’s turns out Chinese cuisine that would fit right in to any major city’s Chinatown.

Lao beef larb is an unlikely find at Woody's Wings N Things.EXPAND
Lao beef larb is an unlikely find at Woody's Wings N Things.
Mark Antonation

Lao Beef and Tripe Larb
Woody’s Wings N Things
6817 Lowell Boulevard
303-427-0302

Behind the facade of what most would mistake for an all-American sports bar hides a treasure trove of Southeast Asian specialties, including Lao, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese and Cambodian dishes. The beef and tripe larb comes as a big, heaping salad of fresh herbs interlaced with strands of marinated rare beef and delicate ribbons of tripe. Mint and cilantro dominate, but a light coating of dressing adds lime, fish sauce and an unusual bitter component. Served with colorful rice crackers, the larb is a refreshing summer dish in an odd little eatery just north of hipper neighborhoods

Use Current Location

Related Locations

miles
Uncle Joe's Hong Kong Bistro
miles
Kin Restaurant

7950 E. Mississippi Ave.
Denver, Colorado 80247

303-750-0326

www.kinrestaurant.com

miles
Woody's Wings N' Things

6817 Lowell Blvd.
Denver, CO 80221

303-427-0302

miles
New Peach Garden

1111 Washington Ave.
Golden, Colorado 80401

303-279-0400

www.newpeachgarden.com

miles
Taqueria El Trompito

10021 E. Hampden Ave.
Denver, Colorado 80231

303-750-2345

miles
Onefold

1420 E. 18th Ave.
Denver, Colorado 80218

303-954-0877

onefolddenver.com

miles
Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen

2528 Walnut St.
Denver, Colorado 80205

720-609-2835

stowawaydenver.com

miles
Tarasco's New Latino Cuisine
miles
Taste of Thailand

2120 S. Broadway
Denver, CO 80210

303-762-9112

www.tasteofthailand.net

miles
Tortas ATM

3143 W. 38th Ave.
Denver, Colorado 80211

303-433-1764


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