First Look

First Look: Modern Chinese Comes to Colfax With Q House

Pig-ear salad with braised tofu, watermelon radish and other veggies.
Pig-ear salad with braised tofu, watermelon radish and other veggies. Mark Antonation
Q House debuts tonight, May 3, at 3421 East Colfax Avenue. It's not a barbecue joint, though: It's a modern Chinese eatery named for the Taiwanese concept of "Q" — perfectly cooked.

The restaurant is the project of Denver bar veteran Jen Mattioni, chef Christopher Lin and front-of-the-house pro Jonathan Pinto. Pinto and Lin worked together in New York City before coming to Denver, where the two met Mattioni and forged a business relationship and an idea for a restaurant based on Lin's Taiwanese background and expertise in regional Chinese cuisine.

Lin's menu dives deep into Chinese culinary traditions, creating complex sauces and using ingredients like Sichuan peppercorns (whose tiny flakes add lip-numbing quality and a slightly lemony flavor to fiery-hot dishes), pig ears, head-on shrimp, turnip cakes (here turned into steak fries alongside a massive, dry-aged ribeye) and pickled mustard greens. A simple dish of braised pork rice pays homage to the braising liquid Lin would steal by the spoonful from his mother's cooking pot.

click to enlarge Q House opens for dinner Thursday, May 3, 2018, at 3421 East Colfax Avenue. - MARK ANTONATION
Q House opens for dinner Thursday, May 3, 2018, at 3421 East Colfax Avenue.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Shacha BBQ ribs in a complex sauce that involves multiple steps to create. - MARK ANTONATION
Shacha BBQ ribs in a complex sauce that involves multiple steps to create.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Inside Q House. - MARK ANTONATION
Inside Q House.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Chong Qing chicken with red chiles and Sichuan peppercorns. - MARK ANTONATION
Chong Qing chicken with red chiles and Sichuan peppercorns.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Inside Q House. - MARK ANTONATION
Inside Q House.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Mussels in black bean sauce with a takeout container of fries. - MARK ANTONATION
Mussels in black bean sauce with a takeout container of fries.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Co-owner Jen Mattioni puts the finishing touches on some house cocktails. - MARK ANTONATION
Co-owner Jen Mattioni puts the finishing touches on some house cocktails.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Pork-belly buns with pickled mustard greens, peanuts and cilantro. - MARK ANTONATION
Pork-belly buns with pickled mustard greens, peanuts and cilantro.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge A dining nook for a party of eight. - MARK ANTONATION
A dining nook for a party of eight.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Fried Chinese eggplant with General Tso's sauce — one of very few nods to American Chinese cuisine. - MARK ANTONATION
Fried Chinese eggplant with General Tso's sauce — one of very few nods to American Chinese cuisine.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Sir-fried green beans with preserved mustard root, dried shrimp and a slow-cooked egg. - MARK ANTONATION
Sir-fried green beans with preserved mustard root, dried shrimp and a slow-cooked egg.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge The bar and chef's counter are prime seating at Q House. - MARK ANTONATION
The bar and chef's counter are prime seating at Q House.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Bang bang chicken salad with sesame butter and Sichuan peppercorns. - MARK ANTONATION
Bang bang chicken salad with sesame butter and Sichuan peppercorns.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Salt and pepper shrimp with shrimp chips. - MARK ANTONATION
Salt and pepper shrimp with shrimp chips.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Tapioca with fruit, nuts and shards of meringue. - MARK ANTONATION
Tapioca with fruit, nuts and shards of meringue.
Mark Antonation
Behind the bar, Mattioni and Pinto have created a roster of house cocktails with Asian ingredients and flavors. A soju sangria can be made with your choice of red, white or sparkling wine; a "charred" sidecar gets a touch of roasty flavor from dry-fired jalapeños; and a spritz hints at melon owing to an unusual aloe liqueur blended with ginger green tea.

Pinto says that food sensitivities were taken into account when the menu was designed; gluten-free and vegan items are clearly marked, and even deep-fried shrimp are jacketed in a potato-flour coating. "I have a shellfish allergy, and I can still have a beautiful, quintessential Q House experience," he explains.

Q House is located in a remodeled building it will soon share with a neighboring bar called the Middleman. Initially, the dining room will be open from 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with a happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. daily and closing hours to be determined. Pinto and Mattioni hope to stay open late enough to take advantage of concert-goers and other Bluebird District night owls, so they'll be gauging the demand over the coming weeks; they also plan to add lunch in about six months.

Reservations are now being taken on the Q House website through Open Table, or call 720-729-8887 for more information.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation