Best Poke 2023 | Turtle Boat | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Chef/owner Jeremy Song opened Turtle Boat, a counter-service restaurant on South Broadway, in 2017 and has been serving stellar "Colorado poki salads" ever since. What exactly does that mean? He's taken the traditional Hawaiian dish and added his own spin, with a selection of seafoods that can be heaped onto fully customizable bowls loaded with a huge selection of add-on options, from furikake and wasabi peas to seaweed salad and spicy green papaya. For a filling mix of flavors and textures, don't be scared to go all in, adding anything and everything that tempts your tastebuds. This is poke maximalism, and it's really, really good.

Pho is supposed to be comforting, reliable, stomach-filling and heartwarming, and that's exactly what you'll get at Pho Broadway, which has been satisfying customers with its clear, flavorful broth since 2017. The secret is in the traditional broth technique, which requires twelve hours' time, allowing the flavors to fully develop. It serves as the rich and savory base for sixteen different iterations of pho, from the classic P1 — packed with steak, brisket, flank, tendon and tripe — to the P14, loaded with imitation crab, shrimp, and shrimp and fish balls.

Molly Martin

In need of a fresh start after the pandemic, chef Edwin Zoe rebranded his Boulder eatery Chimera as Dragonfly Noodle in 2022, adding a second location on Denver's 16th Street Mall later that year. This sister concept to his casual Chinese restaurant, Zoe Ma Ma, boasts noodle dishes that span Asia, from Japan to Singapore to Vietnam to Taiwan. The stars, though, are the six ramen bowls. Dragonfly Noodle is one of only two spots in town that make fresh ramen noodles in-house, and the deeply flavored broths illustrate a dedication to traditional ingredients and methods paired with just enough experimentation — like a ramen piled with tender char siu ribs and another loaded with butter-poached Maine lobster tail — to set it apart from the pack.

Penelope Wong

Chef (or shef, as she prefers) Penelope Wong launched her food truck, Yuan Wonton, in 2019 after quitting her executive-chef job of twenty years and practicing her dumpling skills for the better part of a year. Crowds line up, and pre-sales sell out in seconds as fans scramble for whatever she adds to the menu. But the highlight remains her expertly pleated dumplings, including plump xiao long bao, wontons in chile broth, Szechuan eggplant dumplings and more. It's also proving to be a big year for Wong, who snagged a James Beard Award nomination and is getting closer to opening a brick-and-mortar in Park Hill with two other small businesses (fellow food truck Pho King Rapidos and Sweets and Sourdough, a woman-led bakery).

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.

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