Fishing for an interesting dinner? Head to any Whole Foods markets and have a chat with the knowledgeable staffers in the seafood section. They'll point out a tip-top fresh specimen, perfectly cut, from their dizzying array and then tell you ten different ways to prepare it, along with what other fish might work just as well in the same dish. On any given day, Whole Foods is swimming in the town's biggest variety of sea creatures, and employees can give you the 411 on any one of them: where it came from, what it ate, how long it'll keep and what it tastes like. The seafood section also has a tempting array of ready-made delicacies, including a fabulous calamari salad and party-worthy dips and spreads. And for those who like it raw, the sushi-grade octopus, eel, salmon and tuna are a cut above anyone else's.


Roy's, which came to Cherry Creek by way of Hawaii, is once again the catch of the year for its fresh, well-prepared seafood. We're always reeled in by the menu's interesting combinations, including cassoulet made from sea scallops and filet mignon, and broadbill swordfish dusted and pan-fried with mochiko, a rice flour. This classy, elegant restaurant isn't afraid to offer seafood that landlocked Denver doesn't often see, such as butterfish (known as Pacific pompano or sablefish); the kitchen's also adept at turning the tried and true into something new, too, topping Chilean sea bass with grilled eel, for example. Get the net: We're keeping this one.


This hip, Hapa-ning chain now has three links (two in Boulder), but we like Hapa's Cherry Creek sushi bar best. The sushi is always super-fresh, interesting and well executed, offered in cutting-edge combinations that might sound silly but actually work. For starters, there's the "multiple orgasm," a tempura-battered sushi roll filled with cream cheese, crab and smoked salmon, all fried and then smothered in a gooey white sauce. Since they have to serve dishes like that, it's no wonder the sushi chefs are entertaining and friendly, ready to crack a joke or make conversation with the customers (unlike so many knife-wielding crankypants we run into at other places). But Hapa's real selling point is the scene, which is just plain fun: calm and relaxing at lunch, loud and raucous at dinner, with an L-shaped bar that makes for convenient people-watching.


Fujiyama owner Denny Kang thinks big is better, and he proves it by offering sushi that's much larger than you get at other sushi bars for the same price -- and just as tasty. Enjoy your fish while sitting at the red-topped sushi bar decorated with cute little aquariums, right near a massive, lavender-hued mural of the Japanese mountain that the eatery's named for. A meal here isn't quite as massive as Mount Fuji, but it's a culinary high point nonetheless.
At Fontana Sushi, it seems like almost every hour is happy hour, since the $1 sushi special runs from 6 to 10 p.m. weekdays and 7 p.m. to midnight on weekends. The low price doesn't mean low quality, though, and while the sushi chefs can be a little slow, and the sushi isn't always flawlessly assembled, it's unfailingly fresh and flavorful. Put your money where your mouth is at Fontana.


A visit to Domo has become a cultural tour of Japan, complete with a Zen garden, an intriguing museum, a jumping sake lounge, an appealing dining room and, now, an extensive sushi selection. Still, chef/owner Gaku Homma continues to focus on creating the most healthful, authentic versions of provincial Japanese foods -- yakimono, tojimono, curry, udon -- along with saishoku vegetarian items and Wankosushi, Homma's trademarked take on the country-style sushi of his childhood. Arigato, Domo.
Little Ollie's woks the walk. The kitchen produces dishes that are incredibly polished, not to mention filled with the best Chinese cooking in town. The steamed fish, stir-fries, sweet spare ribs and black-bean sauces evoke the streets of Hong Kong, but the delivery there surely leaves something to be desired when compared with the gracious, efficient service at Little Ollie's. The wine list is startlingly well chosen for a Chinese restaurant, too.


When we want to Thai one on, we head to Thai Bistro. The dining room is sweet and simple, with greenery for color and just a few Thai touches here and there -- but in the kitchen, it's all Thai, all the time. Chef/owner Lek Phromthong knows his way around sweet-salty-sour-spicy, and he balances those elements to good effect in his multi-layered, deeply flavored dishes. The appetizers, including sumptuous steamed dumplings and deep-fried tofu, are admirable, and the main courses, particularly the curries, are truly a main event. Those curries are heavily, and deliciously, sweetened with coconut milk; Phromthong also has a way with fenugreek, which gives his curries an even more exotic taste. Tell the servers your tolerance for chile heat -- they're happy to adjust dishes to match.


Owner Sue Smith goes above and beyond at her simple but spiffy Asian restaurant in the 'burbs. In dishes such as lobster and crab pot stickers and Vietnamese seafood paella, New Orient presents the flavors of Vietnam in a fresh and innovative way. Don't expect noodle-house prices: The macadamia-sesame-encrusted walleye or two-mushroom beef tenderloin will set you back a bit. But you won't find these preparations on any other Vietnamese menu in town.


You won't miss meat at Masalaa, an all-vegetarian Indian eatery, because everything is so well seasoned that there's no shortage of flavor. In fact, the name Masalaa means "spice" in Hindu. The kitchen specializes in southern Indian dishes that you rarely find in Denver, as well as superior versions of traditional favorites from all over the South Asian subcontinent. Masalaa spices up such standards as mulligatawny soup, samosas, curries and saag, and makes dosas -- crêpes of rice and lentil flour -- that are just right for soaking up its fiery mango chutney. Masalaa's most interesting offerings, though, are the idlys, especially the miniature versions that look like little flying saucers made from rice, and the uthapams, bubbly breads topped with fresh vegetables or cheese. Both come with Masalaa's superior sambar (a stew made from several types of dal, or legumes, cooked down with many spices). The servers are ready to explain the unfamiliar items that abound at this restaurant, and they are as gracious and welcoming as a warm cup of chai.


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