909 Walnut Street, Boulder
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m.; happy hour is Tuesday through Saturday, 4 to 6 p.m.
For more info:
Getting in and getting booze:
Getting to Boulder from Denver after work can sometimes feel like a real shlep, making weekday happy hours there nearly impossible if you live in the metro area. But happy hour seemed like the prime opportunity to get an introduction to Supermoon, the hipster-oriented Asian concept from the team behind the elegant Arcana, which previously occupied the space.
On the upside, Supermoon offers happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. every day that it's open. This allows Denver residents to get in on a weekend Boulder deal. What’s more, because Supermoon is tucked away on Walnut street, it can get lost in between the bustling Pearl Street and the St Julien Hotel, which means snagging a seat isn't a challenge; just be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the understated signage. On the downside, the happy hour menu isn't listed on the restaurant's website, so I didn't know what to expect.
We arrived at 4 p.m. to find the service team largely cleaning up from family meal and preparing for an evening event. I should mention that this was our second time trying to hit Supermoon’s happy hour, after trekking there on a weekday only to find it closed for another private event that had been hastily announced on Instagram only. While the back tables remained closed, we were seated promptly at the Arcana-era bar, a beautiful wraparound wood-finished pièce de résistance.
Supermoon’s pared-down happy hour drink offerings include a shot-and-a-beer special and well drinks ($5), as well as the Supermoon cocktail for $12 (down from $14). Given that most cocktails on the menu are $12, I’m not sure I’d consider the eponymous offering a super special, but the refreshing, berry-based Japanese vodka drink sports the right balance of oft-too-sweet St. Germain and is a confirmed summer sipper. My friend was satisfied with a Sapporo and a shot of sochu (a Japanese distilled spirit), but found the Tombo on offer less pleasingly whisky-like than other barley-based sochus.
Supermoon's recent conversion from the "luxe" Arcana promised fun. The restaurant's social media activity
hints at chiller vibes, Asian-inspired foods including ample vegetarian and vegan options, and weekly late-night events. Before even entering the space, you can witness this shakeup via the vibrant patio shrubbery and neon lightning-strike art hanging in the windows. Inside, the walls have been darkened, and additions include funky murals and a central lounge space that divides the cocktail lounge from the banquette-lined dining room. The decor can feel a bit haphazardly hip — especially at 4 p.m., when the place is mostly empty — but with the regular event schedule and the largely young and hip workforce, I sense a later-night poppin' vibe bringing the party to this sleepy corner of Walnut.
As is true of many a happy hour, there is a stark contrast between Supermoon’s regular menu offerings and its late-afternoon specials. Rather than shrink down marquee dishes from the regular menu such as the salmon tartare, hamachi crudo or what sound like incredible vegetarian and vegan concoctions, Supermoon's happy hour snacks restrict us to the heavier fried fare. Luckily, this includes dumplings. At $5 for three pork or vegetable dumplings or Supermoon's modern take on crab rangoon (including pimento cheese and red pepper jelly), it's a shoo-in.
Need more fried things? Have at the $5 fries with spiced mayo or a batch of chicken wings (4 for $6, 6 for $10, or 12 for $18). If you’re simply hungry, you have the opportunity to be sated. If you want something on the more refreshing side, be prepared to drop almost $20 to get a taste of that hamachi crudo off the regular menu, which we found ourselves wishing we hadn’t asked to take a gander at, since it was packed with mouthwatering options.
Still, the crab wonton dumplings are a great deal, and of the many pimento cheese spinoffs I’ve had these last months, this crunchy pouch and molten interior with a truly crabby filling was a tasty take. (Just don’t expect a twisted packet like your average rangoon; this is more fried half-moon style.)
The pork and veggie gyoza are well executed, with a hoisin-esque sauce that hits the sweet tang spot. The sauce was again the standout with the order of fries, this time a golden curry mayo, and while I’m not an expert on fried chicken (agenda item), the wings are delightfully crispy, without being either overtly crumbly or saturated with a sweet, sticky sauce. Instead, the wings are served with a tangy gochujang dipping sauce and a tiny ramekin of spiralized green papaya, the only fresh bite to speak of available to happy hour goers.
Perhaps my biggest regret is leaving without grabbing a $2 green tea mochi (though my friend contends that one should never get mochi when red bean or black sesame mochi options do not grace the list).
In the end, we expected this consciously hip spot to do a bit more with happy hour, and would appreciate an opportunity to taste items more in line with the rest of the enticing food menu. While it wouldn't be my first choice for happy hour, if you find yourself that way, I’d grab a barstool and a shot-beer special next to the open garage window to enjoy both the beautiful bar and people-watching. For those with deeper pockets, stay a while and let us know how the hamachi carpaccio holds up to scrutiny.