Best Japanese Restaurant 2023 | Tokio | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Danielle Lirette

Miki Hashimoto ran Japon, a sushi spot in Washington Park, for nearly two decades before opening Tokio in 2014. While the inviting eatery serves sushi along with a variety of small plates and grilled fish, the real focus here is noodles. Before opening Tokio, Hashimoto returned to Japan to take ramen-making classes, an experience that's reflected in the commanding flavor of the broths, which are loaded with plenty of collagen and fat from pork and chicken. While some stick to tradition, Tokio has unique creations as well, like the Cremoso Diablo, a spicy pork and chicken broth made with heavy cream and loaded with veggies and cha syu pork, then garnished with cheddar and Jack cheeses.

Molly Martin

Star Kitchen has been in business for over fifteen years, and is well known for its dim sum, which draws a big crowd every weekend as fans flock here for char siu buns and cheung fun. But it also serves the best Cantonese fare in the city. If the line for weekend brunch has kept you away, visit on a weeknight for standouts like steamed fish garnished with aromatics, salt and pepper squid, Singapore-style rice noodles with shrimp and barbecue pork, and shredded pork in hot garlic sauce.

Molly Martin

Meet & Eat debuted in the former Mr. Hao location on East Hampden in 2022, serving up a wide selection of Szechuan fare. The menu includes items that are tough to find at other eateries in town, including steamed eggplant with salted egg yolk and fried lamb with cumin. Meet & Eat's take on mapo tofu is a standout, though, thanks to its bold flavor, which is bolstered by a generous sprinkle of ground Szechuan peppercorns on top, plenty of savory ground pork, and super-silky cubes of soft tofu.

Molly Martin

The name "Noodles Express" really doesn't do justice to the many dishes this nondescript Szechuan spot off Colorado Boulevard does very, very well. If you're craving carbs, the dan dan noodles are a must-order, and veggie-forward options like the eggplant with garlic sauce and pan-fried green beans are winners, too. But those craving the mouth-numbing sensation of Szechuan peppercorns should opt for the chong qing pepper chicken, aka laziji, small chunks of crispy deep-fried chicken loaded with plenty of heat.

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.

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