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FOOD & DRINK

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Denver lit up at night never looked as good as it does from Brittany's hilltop vantage point--and the mountains aren't bad, either. Choose from a dining room softly furnished and engineered for intimacy, or sit on the patio with its intoxicating air. Either way, you'll be in the mood for love.

Readers' choice: La Coupole

Best Seafood Restaurant
McCormick's Fish House and Bar
1659 Wazee St.

Face it: Any restaurant brave enough to offer upwards of ten kinds of raw oysters--the best selection in town--has to be confident about its fish purveyor. And not only does McCormick's know what to do with the raw, it's equally adept with the cooked. The menu changes daily to reflect what's fresh; the kitchen deals with two local fish companies and gets the goods from both coasts, and it's particularly careful to order only what's in its customers' price ranges. When you want to stay in the swim, this is the place.

Readers' choice: Fresh Fish Co.

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant
Jerusalem Restaurant
1890 E. Evans Ave.

When hunger pangs hit at odd hours, the Jerusalem is our mecca. At any time of the day, this is Denver's best Middle Eastern restaurant; late at night, it's an oasis of good food--flavorful falafel, stuffed grape leaves, baba-ghanouj, tabouleh. And the megasize portions carry only teeny, tiny prices. Pinch us: We must be dreaming.

Readers' choice: Jerusalem

Best Vietnamese Restaurant
New Saigon
630 S. Federal Blvd.

It's not just the intense, professional preparation that goes into all of New Saigon's food, nor is it the incredibly friendly staff, the attentive service or the appealingly low prices that bring us back time after time. No, it's the sheer number of innovative, eye-catching and stomach-satisfying dishes: seven with frogs' legs, nine with squid, five with snails. And not a clunker among them.

Readers' choice: New Saigon

Best Chinese Restaurant
Ming Garden
909 S. Oneida St.

It's not the fanciest, the oldest, the largest or the most innovative, and the chef doesn't pair everything with fruit, but Ming Garden offers what so few Chinese restaurants in Denver can: consistency. Yep, that's right--every time we visit we enjoy the same even cooking, fresh ingredients and smart service we've come to expect. Equally adept at turning out heart-healthy dishes and traditional, MSG-enhanced fare, Ming also has the requisite overwhelmingly large menu, the simple dining room awash with red tones and the charmingly polite staff.

Readers' choice: Imperial

Best Japanese Restaurant
Mori
2019 Market St.

Don't let the American Legion post location fool you--this is a restaurant to be reckoned with. From the Japanese-style pickle appetizer to the green-tea ice cream, Mori offers a culinary tour of Japan (in fact, the lengthy menus feature several dishes named after subway lines). It's going to take some time to eat your way around all the wonderful things Mori serves. So start now.

Readers' choice: Sushi Den

Best Thai Restaurant
Thai Orchid
399 W. Littleton Blvd., Littleton

The phat thai is often a good indicator of a Thai restaurant's finesse, but at Thai Orchid, that's only the tip of the lily pad. Not content to cook the same dishes everyone else is doing, Thai Orchid takes on deep-fried pompano in ginger sauce, stir-fried mussels with basil and chiles, and dried flour cups filled with carrots, corn, bell peppers and chicken. They do the standards well, too, especially the tod mun, a pungent fish cake served with a cucumber-chile sauce.

Readers' choice: Tommy's Oriental

Best French Restaurant
The Normandy
1515 Madison St.

Once on the verge of becoming a haute caricature of itself, the Normandy acted swiftly. Owner Pierre Wolfe hired the youthful, award-winning chef Robert Mancuso, who created a kinder (to the heart) and gentler (on the pocketbook) menu. The beauty of it is that the Normandy didn't do away with all of the old; instead, it supplemented it with the new. So now you find chateaubriand sitting next to rosemary-steamed halibut with beet sauce; veal medallions in a truffle-Cognac sauce compete for attention with roasted quail and venison in a cherry-pear relish. Add a well-rounded wine list from both this country and France and a decor that's romantic but not overblown, and you have a classic French restaurant that's not afraid of the future.

Readers' choice: La Coupole

Best Italian Restaurant
Carmine's on Penn
92 S. Pennsylvania St.

In a city where Italian restaurants are outnumbered only by Chinese joints, it's amazing that Carmine's even got noticed. But it's been more than noticed since it opened a few months ago--it's so popular you can hardly get near the place. Fortunately for those who make it to the head of the line, Carmine's lives up to its billing. Located in a quiet residential neighborhood, with a great big outdoor patio, Carmine's is dishing up an ever-changing menu of Italian standards and some of its own creations, all fresh-tasting and consistently good. The real draw, though, is the family-style setup: Each entree contains enough food for at least two people, and with most priced in the mid-teens, that makes for bargain dining. The veal dishes are particularly noteworthy, as are Carmine's fantastic complimentary rolls. Hope you wanted a little bread with your garlic.

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