Best Chinese Condiments 2023 | Meta Asian Kitchen | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Molly Martin

Doris Yuen and her husband, chef Kenneth Wan, launched Meta Asian Kitchen inside Avanti after moving to Denver from the East Coast in 2019. Now Meta is set to "graduate" from the food hall, as they say, and has taken over the kitchen at Honor Farm on Blake Street as Yuen and Han work toward opening their first stand-alone restaurant, called MAKfam, in Baker later this year. But no matter where Meta is or what's on the menu, one staple we love is the trio of condiments, which come on some dishes and are also regularly available to purchase by the jar. Uncle Tony's Chili Oil packs a lot of heat, while the soy- and vinegar-heavy dumpling sauce is a bit gentler on the palate, but the standout is MAK's XO Chili Sauce, which combines a milder punch with a whole lot of umami flavor.

Golden Saigon

Golden Saigon has occupied the same strip-mall space in Aurora since 1995, all the while serving up homey Vietnamese staples like pho along with entrees you don't often find on other Vietnamese restaurant menus — curry, for example. Though owner Mama Le's daughter, Van Le, admits that Vietnam isn't known for its curries, Golden Saigon's version is actually the dish that keeps customers coming back. It's not a green or red curry such as those found in neighboring Thailand, though. Instead, it's made from Indian madras curry powder, coconut milk and lots of lemongrass, keeping the dish solidly grounded in Vietnamese flavors. But that's just one of many reasons to dine at this longtime family-owned establishment.

Mark Antonation

Tom kha, larb, green curry, drunken noodles, pineapple fried rice: The menu at US Thai, which has been a favorite in metro Denver since it debuted in 2006, is packed with hits. But what distinguishes the no-frills eatery is that it truly brings the heat. It even offers a menu warning about its spice level: "Hot, not recommended for the first-time visitor." Go mild unless you can handle the punch from Thai chiles, which are used liberally here, along with generous amounts of other spices — galangal, lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaf and ginger — adding depth to the fiery fare.

Khan Toke

This ghost kitchen from owner Jonathan Konsila operates out of a ChefReady facility, and he runs it alongside his wife and brother, as well as his parents, who are from Thailand. The bold flavors from the delivery-only concept deliver big, with a number of dishes not often seen on menus around town. The pad Thai and tom yum soup are excellent, but the moo nam tok, a grilled pork salad with roasted rice, mint, shallots, green onions and Thai chile powder, left us ready to eat our way through the rest of the menu. Pro tip: Get the mango sticky rice, too.

Molly Martin

Thai Pot Cafe got its start in a small space on South Colorado Boulevard and moved into its current large and airy home a few blocks away in 2014. While there's a lot to love on the menu, it's the drunken noodles that have become a best seller. There's always a nice char on the thick noodles, plus you can choose any heat level (zero to seven is "American hot," while a ten is "Thai mild," with options going up from there). The best part, though, is that the dish is loaded with a variety of veggies, including eggplant, green beans, tomatoes, onions and broccoli, making for a nourishing veggie-heavy meal, whether or not you decide to add pork, chicken, beef, tofu, shrimp or squid.

Best Thai Eatery and Coffee Shop Combo

Esme Cafe

The quaint Esme Cafe debuted in Englewood in late 2022 and doubles as a low-key Thai restaurant. Stop by in the mornings for a cup of coffee, a cappuccino or a dirty chai paired with a pastry, then come back for lunch or dinner to dive into the rice and noodle dishes. Popular staples include boat noodle soup with a rich, deeply flavored broth, khao soi and salmon fried rice.

Molly Martin

Seoul K-BBQ & Hot Pot sports two delicious, quintessentially Korean dining experiences, with the left side of the restaurant dedicated to all-you-can-eat hot pot and the right devoted to Korean barbecue. On the hot pot side, diners select a base broth and meats before selecting ingredients from the vast buffet of options. From noodles to vegetables to spices and, of course, kimchi, the possibilities are endless. For barbecue, bring a group and go for one of the combinations that includes a smattering of banchan, along with soup and the choice of beer or soju.

Urban Village Grill

While chef Charles Mani doesn't claim to make the "traditional" Indian fare with which most Colorado diners are familiar, plenty of items on the menu at the three-year-old Urban Village Grill speak to the classic recipes. But thanks to Mani, the butter chicken, 24-hour dal and coconut curry come with a French culinary twist, too. Surprisingly, they also come with just one spice level; diners can up the heat quotient with the chef's special hot sauce — the better to impart the greatest flavor and health benefits, according to Mani. Another unique aspect of the Park Meadows restaurant: outdoor grilling stations where diners can order plates of marinated meats to cook al fresco.

Mark Manger

In the nearly three decades that it's been in business, not much has changed at Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant. Although Colfax has grown around it, the tiny strip-mall restaurant still boasts some of the city's best African food. What sets it apart from other Ethiopian eateries — and there are a lot within a stone's throw — is the homestyle cooking of proprietress Zodi Aboye, who acts as host, server and chef. The smell of rich, warm spices fills its cozy quarters, which are decorated with folk art and photos from the horn of Africa. Dishes are eaten by hand, using only the tangy unleavened injera as a vessel. Platters of flavorful stewed meats and vegetables offer a sampling of options, and the comfort foods, like lamb and lentils, are savored best with a cup of seasoned tea or honey wine. Because of Queen of Sheba's limited seating and popularity, reservations are recommended.

Joni Schrantz

French fare is having a moment in Denver, and while there are a variety of new additions to the scene, Bistro Vendôme's recent move to a new location has given it fresh energy. After shuttering the original locale in Larimer Square, chef and restaurateur Jennifer Jasinski and partner Beth Gruitch's restaurant is back in Park Hill and better than ever. With fresh and modern decor and an updated menu from chef Jeremy Wolgamot, this is the place to go for classic French, including steak frites and coq au vin alongside dishes like allium soup and bourride (fish stew).

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