Izakaya Den is a beautiful restaurant — dimly lit, with a lovely, blonde-wood sushi bar and huge beams made from imported cedar, set and carved by Japanese craftsmen — but that's not why it's the year's best new restaurant. The menu, designed by Toshi Kizaki and executed by one of the most talented crews in town, is ridiculous, a Japanese-Mediterranean fusion (with hints of northern Spain and France and America shot through it like rogue strands of culinary DNA) that's amazing, awe-inspiring and should never work in a million years but somehow does — but that's not why. Izakaya has wonderful service, a great vibe and a rich crowd of regulars — but none of those are why, either. Instead, Izakaya takes the crown for being an exemplary example of that finest restaurateur impulse, which is to do what you love without compromise and hope that the people come to love it, too. And they do love Izakaya Den, for so many reasons. Denver is lucky to have a restaurant, a kitchen, a crew and a menu as audacious and weird as you find as Izakaya, and we can only hope that its success inspires others to follow the same brave path.