When twelve shuttered a few years ago and Jeff Osaka went off to pursue casual ventures (Osaka Ramen, Sushi-Rama, Denver Central Market), we weren't sure he'd ever make a return to fine dining. Thank goodness he did, because 12@MADISON offers something this town — well, every town — needs more of. Tucked in the heart of Congress Park, 12@MADISON is that rare blend of impeccable and approachable, making it the perfect neighborhood restaurant. With a menu of small plates clustered in categories — soup/salad, vegetables, pastas, seafood, lighter proteins, heavier meats, etc. — there are a hundred ways to craft a meal, all of them affordable, all of them delicious. One night, you might start with grilled rainbow carrots with labneh and dukkah, a fragrant Egyptian spice blend, before sharing a bowl of curried quinoa congee and short rib raviolo in brodo. Another night, the hamachi with grapefruit and oranges catches your eye, followed by five-spice skirt steak with tatsoi. Menus change with the seasons, so even if these delights are no longer available, whatever you happen to find surely will be, with flavors that are global without being trendy, smart without being pretentious, and seasonal in all the right ways. Wisely structured desserts and a solid bar program — think gin over ice cubes made of beet juice — mean that this neighborhood gem won't stay a secret for long.
Readers' Choice: Avelina