100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes: Pickled Lake Michigan Perch at Trillium

No. 72 Pickled Lake Michigan Perch at Trillium 2134 Larimer Street 303-379-9759 Upper Larimer's Trillium brings Scandinavia to Denver, by way of the Great Lakes. Chef-owner Ryan Leinonen grew up in Michigan, where Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish influences shaped the food he grew up with. This shows on his menu, which is dotted with specialties like Skagen toast (little shrimp canapes), raw steelhead trout raaka, and an appetizer list labeled "smorgasbord." There's fish from the Great Lakes, too: Lake Superior whitefish and our favorite, pickled perch from Lake Michigan.

See also: 100 Favorite Dishes of 2014

In Sweden, there are dozens of recipes for pickled herring; one version, called "glassblower" herring (perhaps because the crystal-clear pickling brine looks so nice in glass jars), is particularly popular. Leinonen interprets this traditional style using lake perch instead of the oilier herring, resulting in a light and delicate snack far from the heavily vinegared and mushy, jarred pickled herring typical in U.S. grocery stores.

The perch is firm and dense, not flaky. The subtle brine, which Leinonen thoughtfully scales back so as not to overwhelm the fish, yields only a mild tang from vinegar, a touch of sweetness and a whisper of pickling spices. Somehow, the humble lake perch achieves elegance with its translucent flesh stacked neatly on a glass dish of similar hue, the kitchen's immaculate slicing, and the tantalizing flavors that awake the palate for courses to come. Served with thin triangles of grilled rye bread and a creamy horseradish and chive rouille, Trillium's pickled perch is the perfect starter, especially when sided with an ice-cold shot of caraway-scented akvavit.

In advance of the Best of Denver 2015, we're already loading our plates with contenders for the best dishes in the city. And over the next nine months, we'll be sharing many of them with you, counting down (in no particular order) one hundred of our favorite dishes before the the Best of Denver 2015 hits the streets on March 26. In the meantime, if there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section below, or shoot us an e-mail at cafe@westword.com.

Hungry for more? All the dishes in our 2014 countdown are linked below.

No. 100: Chile Relleno at La Fiesta No. 99: Gurage Kitfo at Megenagna Ethiopian Restaurant No. 98: Cochinita Pibil at Work & Class No. 97: The Greggers Tongue Sandwich at Olive & Finch No 96: Baum Cakes at Glaze by Sasa No. 95: Goat hot pot from Viet's No 94: Head cheese from Beast + Bottle No. 93: Kettle Chips from Amerigo Delicatus No. 92: Pork Belly Confit at Solera Restaurant and Wine Bar No. 91: Tacos Campechanos from La Calle Taqueria No. 90: Biscuits from Denver Biscuit Co. No. 89: Clams and Chorizo at Gozo No. 88: Aburi Sushi at Sushi Den and Izakaya Den No. 87: Kimchi and Sausage Torta at City, O' City No. 86: Mar y Tierra Molcajete at Paxia No. 85: Crispy Pork Spare Ribs at Table Top No. 84: Chips and Dip at Euclid Hall No. 83: Chile Relleno Burrito at El Taco de Mexico No. 82: Scallop Crudo at Stoic & Genuine No. 81: Ceylon Curry Dosa at Khazana No. 80: The Lambada Torta at La Torteria No. 79: Pork Bulgogi at Dae Gee No. 78: the Pulled Pork Pig Pen Sandwich at Boney's No. 77: IPA Mac & Cheese at Hops & Pie No. 76: Chiles en Nogada at Chili Verde No. 75: Udon Noodle Bowl at Bones No. 74: Cinnamon Rolls at the Duffeyroll Cafe No. 73: Smoked Turkey Croque-Madame at Acorn

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.