Best Takeout Dumplings
Mike Mallory

Mason's Dumplings and its older sibling, Luscious Dumplings, have won awards for the best dumplings and best Chinese food in their hometown of Los Angeles, so when Mason's decided to open an Aurora outpost, dumpling fans were understandably excited. The shop was all set to open in mid-March 2020 when the pandemic hit, so the kitchen switched to takeout only and has been sending dumplings, noodles and other eats out the door ever since. Plans are in the works to finally open the dining room in the coming weeks, but for now you can still get pan-fried, steamed or boiled dumplings to go.

Best Korean Dumplings
Mark Antonation

Tiny Seoul ManDoo opened last summer on Havana Street with only two menu items: familiar fried or steamed mandu dumplings (similar to Japanese gyoza or Chinese potstickers) and bigger wang mandu (called giant dumplings on the menu) that immediately impress with their immense size (bigger than the palm of your hand) and snow-white steamed wrapper. Of course, all the dumplings come with a choice of several meat- and veggie-based fillings. Order a combo pack so you can try a few.

Best Mobile Dumplings
Penelope Wong

Penelope Wong's wontons, soup dumplings and other creations could be the star of any dim sum restaurant or high-end Chinese menu, but instead she serves them out of a food truck at breweries, pop-ups and special events. The truck has been a huge hit since launching in 2019, so much so that long lines formed during the first few months of business, even on chilly winter nights, and pre-orders sold out regularly during the pickup-only days of the pandemic. The truck's success isn't just a social media phenomenon; Wong's food is grounded in the dishes she grew up with, and her love and passion can be tasted in every bite.

instagram.com/yuanwonton
ChoLon Modern Asian

Chef Michelle Xiao was one of the best dumpling makers in New York City before ChoLon chef/owner Lon Symensma coaxed her into moving to Denver to work her magic at his restaurants. While dumplings are only a small part of the menu at the pan-Asian restaurant, you'll see a steaming basket of the signature French onion soup dumplings at nearly every table in the dining room. The delicate pleats and dough so thin you can almost see the dumplings' contents through it are evidence of an artisan working behind the scenes to make your dinner experience special.

Best Poke
Laura Shunk

A poke war broke out in Denver in the latter part of the last decade, with every nook of every strip mall in town seemingly hiding a raw-fish bar. Most of them didn't seem particularly Hawaiian, though, especially when compared to Louie and Regan Colburn's Ohana Island Kitchen, which opened in the fall of 2016 after starting life as a walk-up window just across the street. Louie hails from Hawaii, and his pristine, simply dressed ahi tuna demonstrates a true knowledge of how to do it right. Beyond the tuna, Ohana also offers other great island bites such as kalua pork and Spam musubi — which you should always tack on with any poke order.

Best Ramen
Mark Antonation

Takashi Tamai is more than a ramen chef; he's an artist who works with noodles and broth. Before opening his own spot two years ago, the chef/owner of Ramen Star invested in an elaborate machine that he uses to make fresh noodles daily. Those noodles go into tonkotsu, miso, shoyu, kimchi and veggie broths, all of which come with housemade toppings such as chashu pork, soy-marinated eggs and crisped dumplings labeled "potato pierogi" on the menu. Once you've spooned up every bite, you'll want to tip the bowl to your lips to get every last drop.

Best Conversion to a Ramen Bar
Courtesy of Chimera Ramen

Edwin Zoe founded Chimera in Boulder with the intention of showcasing his favorite dishes from all around Asia, but he and his culinary team became too good at one thing: ramen. So he converted the restaurant to a ramen-only shop (with a few tantalizing appetizers) to give customers exactly what they wanted. Zoe makes ramen noodles from scratch every day (his is one of only two metro ramen shops doing that), and the kitchen simmers broths all day to extract the most flavor from pork and chicken bones and kombu, the Japanese seaweed that adds depth to the soups. If you're not sure which bowl to start with, Chimera Ramen's lobster ramen is worth every penny.

Best Non-Ramen Dishes at a Ramen Bar

Osaka Ramen

Best Non-Ramen Dishes at a Ramen Bar
Mark Antonation

Chef Jeff Osaka was doing fine dining long before he decided to return to his childhood roots with Osaka Ramen. Diners who visited Twelve from 2008 to 2014, or its spinoff, [email protected], from 2016 to 2020, know all about Osaka's attention to detail and wise use of ingredients. Those attributes also hold true for the various ramen bowls served at this subterranean eatery, but don't skip the roster of small plates, from the chilled green beans to the curried potato croquettes to the agedashi tofu. And if you're looking for great, secret fried chicken, you'll find it in little plates of karaage, crunchy on the outside and subtly flavored with citrus and soy.

Best New Pan-Asian Restaurant
Michael Emery Hecker

The Ginger Pig has the soul of a Chinese restaurant, owing to founder Natascha Hess's time spent living in China and her love of her host family's home cooking. But her eatery also encompasses ideas from Thailand, Vietnam, Korea and Japan, so it's best to mix and match. The Bangkok balls are little fried rice spheres with a touch of red curry; the happy hour Korean rice dog one-ups the standard corn dog with a crunchy-chewy rice-and-cornflake coating; and the hot and sour shredded potatoes offer a taste of Chinese tradition. More of that can be found in the Sichuan-style eggplant and Auntie Zhang's Chinese noodles, but keep your eye on the menu for new dishes that are always worth a go.

Best Korean Restaurant
Danielle Lirette

In a year when the comforting and familiar felt like the best bet, Dae Gee was there with its Colorado-grown group of Korean eateries that have fed so many customers since the first one opened in Westminster in 2010. Bubbling soups and stews in hot stone bowls, sizzling meats coated in spicy marinades, and endless little bowls of banchan to add tangy, salty and funky punch to each meal gave us what we needed. Dae Gee's kimchi felt like the unofficial food of 2020, its spice and crunch simultaneously health-giving and fun. It made us warm and happy in kimchi pancakes and kimchi jjigae (a pork, tofu and noodle stew), and as a side with nearly everything else. At Dae Gee, we pigged out when we needed to most.

120 W. Olive St., Fort Collins

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