Best Korean in the Last Place You'd Expect

DiDi Deli

While the humble DiDi Deli serves unexpectedly good chicken salad sandwiches and cheeseburgers, its Korean menu really steals the show. The Korean barbecue, for example, is nutty in flavor, tender and a little sweet. Bi bim bop -- a useful yardstick for measuring Korean food -- is a traditional dish of mild barbecued beef, fresh bean sprouts, lettuce, mushrooms, shredded cucumber, sliced zucchini, stewed greens and a fried egg, all kept separate but piled on a big mound of white rice, served with go choo jong, a thick, heavy, red-pepper paste you can use to your liking; DiDi's version is impeccable, with an ideal blend of textures, tastes and temperatures.
The ramshackle structure that is the entirety of Kim's kitchen is about as out of place in Boulder as a fish in a tree, but it's a welcome sight in the dining landscape. Even though open kitchens -- those stages on which smiling cooks in starched whites glide around under dramatic point lighting, showing off for a room full of ravenous diners -- are quite trendy these days, they don't have anything on Kim's. At Kim's, there's nowhere to hide and no need to, since nothing is more natural, nothing more authentic, than the cooking being done here. The curries are delicate and sweet. Vietnamese egg rolls -- hot, right out of the oil, packed with chewy glass noodles and bits of sweet onion -- are just as good as you'd find for lots more money in a sit-down establishment. And the typical Chinese sesame chicken on the menu is anything but typical, with a surprising, superior maple-y glaze.


The ramshackle structure that is the entirety of Kim's kitchen is about as out of place in Boulder as a fish in a tree, but it's a welcome sight in the dining landscape. Even though open kitchens -- those stages on which smiling cooks in starched whites glide around under dramatic point lighting, showing off for a room full of ravenous diners -- are quite trendy these days, they don't have anything on Kim's. At Kim's, there's nowhere to hide and no need to, since nothing is more natural, nothing more authentic, than the cooking being done here. The curries are delicate and sweet. Vietnamese egg rolls -- hot, right out of the oil, packed with chewy glass noodles and bits of sweet onion -- are just as good as you'd find for lots more money in a sit-down establishment. And the typical Chinese sesame chicken on the menu is anything but typical, with a surprising, superior maple-y glaze.
A tiny eatery housed in the same space as an Asian market in a Boulder strip mall, the Asian Deli is like a pearl -- a spectacular find in dubious surroundings. Almost anything on the menu can be had for less than seven bucks, and there are nearly 150 items on that menu, including two dozen soups. But a bargain is only a bargain if quality is as high as prices are low, and from simple goi cuon (Vietnamese spring rolls) and plain bowls of pho to deep-fried pampano fish and stuffed quail, Asian Deli surpasses all expectations.


New Saigon
Mark Manger
A tiny eatery housed in the same space as an Asian market in a Boulder strip mall, the Asian Deli is like a pearl -- a spectacular find in dubious surroundings. Almost anything on the menu can be had for less than seven bucks, and there are nearly 150 items on that menu, including two dozen soups. But a bargain is only a bargain if quality is as high as prices are low, and from simple goi cuon (Vietnamese spring rolls) and plain bowls of pho to deep-fried pampano fish and stuffed quail, Asian Deli surpasses all expectations.
There are a lot of things to love about the T-Wa Inn. In season, it serves great soft-shell crabs, breaded and fried in butter. When the kitchen isn't going nuts with the mint, it makes a great spring roll. And on a good night, the stuffed quail is worth killing for. But there's one thing T-Wa does perfectly every time: Vietnamese coffee. Just stepping through the doors is like walking off a plane and straight into a foreign cafe, making T-Wa the ideal spot for a lunch-break vacation. Watching the thick, strong French coffee drip through the battered filter on top of your glass forces your mind and body to slow down, to adjust to a different tempo. Smelling the rich brew as it slowly fills the glass, mixing in the sweetened condensed milk, pouring the coffee over ice and listening to the cubes crack -- it's like a half-hour of Zen relaxation therapy all for a buck and a half. One taste and we're already gone.


There are a lot of things to love about the T-Wa Inn. In season, it serves great soft-shell crabs, breaded and fried in butter. When the kitchen isn't going nuts with the mint, it makes a great spring roll. And on a good night, the stuffed quail is worth killing for. But there's one thing T-Wa does perfectly every time: Vietnamese coffee. Just stepping through the doors is like walking off a plane and straight into a foreign cafe, making T-Wa the ideal spot for a lunch-break vacation. Watching the thick, strong French coffee drip through the battered filter on top of your glass forces your mind and body to slow down, to adjust to a different tempo. Smelling the rich brew as it slowly fills the glass, mixing in the sweetened condensed milk, pouring the coffee over ice and listening to the cubes crack -- it's like a half-hour of Zen relaxation therapy all for a buck and a half. One taste and we're already gone.
Aside from the name, there's no fusion at Thai Basil. The cuisine of Thailand is the primary focus at this groovy little Wash Park eatery, and while a scattering of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes can be found on the menu, it's the curry -- calibrated for the adventurous eater, with plenty of spice and heat to spare -- that has us coming back again and again. Several varieties are available, with old favorites like panang and massamun sharing menu space with house specials. Thai Basil also offers an excellent grilled chicken satay served with a peanut sauce so thick it's more for scooping than for dipping. And unless you've recently come off a hunger strike, one order of pad thai is usually enough to feed two -- although it's so good you'll be tempted to polish it off yourself.


Aside from the name, there's no fusion at Thai Basil. The cuisine of Thailand is the primary focus at this groovy little Wash Park eatery, and while a scattering of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes can be found on the menu, it's the curry -- calibrated for the adventurous eater, with plenty of spice and heat to spare -- that has us coming back again and again. Several varieties are available, with old favorites like panang and massamun sharing menu space with house specials. Thai Basil also offers an excellent grilled chicken satay served with a peanut sauce so thick it's more for scooping than for dipping. And unless you've recently come off a hunger strike, one order of pad thai is usually enough to feed two -- although it's so good you'll be tempted to polish it off yourself.
Although there's a lot of great Indian food in town, Maruti Narayan's takes top honors. From its humble beginnings as a coffee shop to its current incarnation as a sit-down lunch and dinner destination, Narayan's has consistently impressed Denver's Indian and Nepalese communities and wowed many adventurous local diners along the way. Never straying too far from classic preparations into territory that would be either too hot or inedibly bland, the kitchen puts out perfectly spiced potato and vegetable samosas, well-balanced curries and succulent meats. Like the baby bear's porridge, everything at Narayan's is just right. And the Nepalese additions to the menu -- especially the fun-to-pronounce meat momo -- are a tasty bonus.


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