Denver's fifty most essential restaurants, No. 46: Trillium

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

What defines an essential restaurant? Several opinionated friends and I were recently discussing that topic during dinner at a trendy newcomer that's amassed a flurry of flattery since opening its doors. It's a restaurant-of-the-moment, but will it still be relevant in six months? Will the crowds continue to jam the doors? More important, will it have made an indelible mark on Denver's dining landscape ten years from now? As a prelude to our annual Best of Denver issue, we're spotlighting, in no particular order, fifty restaurants -- old and new, classy, cool and conventional, strip mall and belle of the ball -- that are the Mile High City's most essential places to eat. These are the places that every foodnik in Denver should have on his or her feed-me list.

No. 46: Trillium

In Michigan, Nordic traditions are here, there and everywhere, in bathrooms and on billboards, in bakeries and boutiques, and in restaurants that pump out pickled herring, lutefisk and cloudberries. Noma, the international sensation from Danish chef René Redzepi, was deemed the "standard bearer for the New Nordic movement" last year when the restaurant nabbed the number one spot on San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurant roster...for the third time -- and there's no denying that Noma has popularized Scandinavian cuisine in the States. In Denver, we have our own "standard bearer" of Nordic cuisine, courtesy of Ryan Leinonen, who grew up in Michigan, married a Swede and opened Trillium, Denver's first Scandinavian restaurant -- a restaurant that combines Leinonen's allegiance to his Midwestern roots with ceaseless creativity and an unrelenting Nordic stripe that embraces American traditions.

See also: The new happy hour at Trillium makes me ecstatic

From the confines of his open kitchen, which peeks over a minimalist dining room refreshingly absent of distractions that detract from his food, Leinonen focuses on delivering one of the city's most elevated dining experiences, turning out superlative dishes sprinkled with refined whimsy. The cold-smoked steelhead trout, the lustrous cubes of which burrow beneath the lid of a jar that, once opened, emits plumes of aromatic vapors, is indicative of Leinonen's originality and craftsmanship, which pops up time and time again, even when the dish is something as commonplace as a New York strip. Leinonen, true to his roots, slicks the grill-marked beef with a creamy Danish blue cheese sauce, pairs it with radishes and pickled mushroom and bolsters the plate with a potato salad jolted with horseradish. With Trillium, Leinonen brings to the city a sense of purpose immersed in Scandinavian culture and soul.

For special occasions: Trillium trumpets a trio of caviar -- white sturgeon, Russian surgeon and Siberian -- and if you're celebrating, it's worth the splurge.

For every day occasions: Trillium's happy hour, offered every day but Monday, is a terrific way to explore the menu without depleting your wallet.

Denver's Fifty Most Essential Restaurants

Denver's fifty most essential restaurants, No. 50: Vesta Dipping Grill Denver's fifty most essential restaurants, No. 49: Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs Denver's fifty most essential restaurants, No. 48: El Taco de Mexico Denver's fifty most essential restaurants, No. 47: Rioja

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.