When we need to retune our tastebuds, when we crave bright, dominant flavors unmuddied by excess, we go to Thai Basil II. Here we can sample the simple pleasures of Asian cuisines -- hot curries, sweet lime, peppery-sweet basil, vegetables cooked fast and served fresh without all the taste leached out of them. Thai is a cuisine best tasted in the juxtaposition between one flavor and its neighbor, and the best trick in Thai Basil's repertoire is the cooks' ability to keep flavors distinct while still making each plate taste like a full, wedded whole. The curries are the best example of this skill, with sweet and heat and sour and bitter ingredients all coming together into seamless aggregates of their parts.
Just because a Chinese restaurant isn't authentic doesn't mean it can't be authentically good. Little Olive does Chinese food American style, but it does it right. Shrimp and crab dumplings, Mongolian beef, orange chicken, Peking duck, Thai curries and Vietnamese soft-shell crab come together on an Asian menu that has something to please every palate. Yes, it still serves the basics -- the sweet-and-sour this and kung pao that we all remember from our childhoods -- but with a commitment to making this mutt cuisine better, fresher and healthier than any other place in town. Little Olive shows us that even as our tastes mature, so do the best restaurants.
Han Kang sits in a strip mall next to a piano lounge. It's cool, quiet and, if not exactly dignified, then certainly muffled with smiling, soft-footed servers working the room and a giant TV kept to a murmur. The noisiest thing about the place is the food -- everything bubbling and sloshing -- and the splashy mural of an impressionistic Denver skyline that runs the length of one wall. The other three are usually papered with dozens of sheets of colored construction paper carefully filled with blocky Korean writing describing the daily specials and those menu items not available to outsiders. But every dish here is completely Korean. There's non-threatening bulgogi, soy-sweet and sugary beef piled on top of caramelized onions with a strong dose of sesame oil. Bi bim bop -- as much fun to eat as it is to say -- and bi bim nengmyun, vermicelli noodles with sliced rib-eye, slivered radish and green squash. For the more daring eaters, there's fried squid, deadly-hot chile dishes and, of course, kimchi -- the ultimate test of any foodie's will.
When we need to retune our tastebuds, when we crave bright, dominant flavors unmuddied by excess, we go to Thai Basil II. Here we can sample the simple pleasures of Asian cuisines -- hot curries, sweet lime, peppery-sweet basil, vegetables cooked fast and served fresh without all the taste leached out of them. Thai is a cuisine best tasted in the juxtaposition between one flavor and its neighbor, and the best trick in Thai Basil's repertoire is the cooks' ability to keep flavors distinct while still making each plate taste like a full, wedded whole. The curries are the best example of this skill, with sweet and heat and sour and bitter ingredients all coming together into seamless aggregates of their parts.

Best Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Chinese and Japanese in One Place

Ko-Mart

Looking for jackfruit juice? Ko-Mart's got it. Whole dried pink shrimp? Smoked anchovy? Pork neck? Octopus tentacles? No problem. The front of this all-in-one market is dominated by a series of concessions selling everything from ready-made sushi and boba "bubble" tea (fruit teas filled with tiny tapioca balls) to bone-marrow soup, housewares and videos. Lining the market shelves are a hundred kinds of rice, a zillion types of mushrooms, and more brands of soy sauce than you can shake a smoked squid at. Ko-Mart also has one of the freshest, most diverse and most beautiful displays of fresh produce in the city, with what seems like an army of employees constantly stacking and restacking the melons, Korean peaches, lemongrass, ginger root, Chinese cabbage and mountain potatoes. Ko-mart stocks stacks of ramen, cans of white soda that taste like the stuff left at the bottom of a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, freaky bags of rice candy decorated with cartoon giraffes and big-headed children, boxes of Pocky and Ting-Ting Jahe ginger candies. The only thing it's missing are durian fruit and candy cigarettes. Other than that, Ko-Mart is a non-stop ride on the Orient express.
Although there's no such thing as bad Indian food in Denver, India's clearly serves the best. Try a few benchmark dishes, and you'll agree. First, the saag paneer: If an Indian kitchen can't cook good saag paneer, then you must run, not walk, away, because this dish is the standard by which all others are measured. India's is a divine blend of creamy spinach and stiff, almost squeaky house-made paneer cheese layered with a complex but subtle mix of spices. Next, there's curry. At India's, it's like a dream -- soft-edged and smooth, alternately bright with exotic taste or barely a whisper of flavor carried on the back of butter and cream. Finally, there's India's boti masala, in which perfectly tender chunks of lamb bathe in a smoky, earthy tomato cream sauce touched with a dozen subtle, grounded spices. India's version is so good, it's like falling in love. And you will, with India's.
Han Kang sits in a strip mall next to a piano lounge. It's cool, quiet and, if not exactly dignified, then certainly muffled with smiling, soft-footed servers working the room and a giant TV kept to a murmur. The noisiest thing about the place is the food -- everything bubbling and sloshing -- and the splashy mural of an impressionistic Denver skyline that runs the length of one wall. The other three are usually papered with dozens of sheets of colored construction paper carefully filled with blocky Korean writing describing the daily specials and those menu items not available to outsiders. But every dish here is completely Korean. There's non-threatening bulgogi, soy-sweet and sugary beef piled on top of caramelized onions with a strong dose of sesame oil. Bi bim bop -- as much fun to eat as it is to say -- and bi bim nengmyun, vermicelli noodles with sliced rib-eye, slivered radish and green squash. For the more daring eaters, there's fried squid, deadly-hot chile dishes and, of course, kimchi -- the ultimate test of any foodie's will.
Sherpa's owner, Pemba Sherpa, comes with heavy-duty street cred: The guy actually is a Sherpa, with more than twenty ascents over 20,000 feet to his credit. He grew up in Nepal, in the shadow of Everest, eating the kind of food he now serves in a restaurant that's decorated with artifacts of his previous life -- the snowshoes, gunny bags and ice axes of his former career -- and photos of him today, still climbing. In addition to unique interpretations of standard Indian fare, Sherpa's kitchen cooks up fantastic mountain-man cuisine: heavy, thick stews, spicy momo and fried paneer pokara. The service is friendly, with staffers (many of whom are Sherpas, too) intimately acquainted with the food they serve. And in keeping with the restaurant's motto, the Adventurers Bar in the front of this two-story converted Victorian is the perfect place "to relive the glories of past adventures and plan new ones."

Best Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Chinese and Japanese in One Place

Ko-Mart

M-Mart
Looking for jackfruit juice? Ko-Mart's got it. Whole dried pink shrimp? Smoked anchovy? Pork neck? Octopus tentacles? No problem. The front of this all-in-one market is dominated by a series of concessions selling everything from ready-made sushi and boba "bubble" tea (fruit teas filled with tiny tapioca balls) to bone-marrow soup, housewares and videos. Lining the market shelves are a hundred kinds of rice, a zillion types of mushrooms, and more brands of soy sauce than you can shake a smoked squid at. Ko-Mart also has one of the freshest, most diverse and most beautiful displays of fresh produce in the city, with what seems like an army of employees constantly stacking and restacking the melons, Korean peaches, lemongrass, ginger root, Chinese cabbage and mountain potatoes. Ko-mart stocks stacks of ramen, cans of white soda that taste like the stuff left at the bottom of a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, freaky bags of rice candy decorated with cartoon giraffes and big-headed children, boxes of Pocky and Ting-Ting Jahe ginger candies. The only thing it's missing are durian fruit and candy cigarettes. Other than that, Ko-Mart is a non-stop ride on the Orient express.
India's Restaurant
Courtesy India's Restaurant Facebook
Although there's no such thing as bad Indian food in Denver, India's clearly serves the best. Try a few benchmark dishes, and you'll agree. First, the saag paneer: If an Indian kitchen can't cook good saag paneer, then you must run, not walk, away, because this dish is the standard by which all others are measured. India's is a divine blend of creamy spinach and stiff, almost squeaky house-made paneer cheese layered with a complex but subtle mix of spices. Next, there's curry. At India's, it's like a dream -- soft-edged and smooth, alternately bright with exotic taste or barely a whisper of flavor carried on the back of butter and cream. Finally, there's India's boti masala, in which perfectly tender chunks of lamb bathe in a smoky, earthy tomato cream sauce touched with a dozen subtle, grounded spices. India's version is so good, it's like falling in love. And you will, with India's.

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