Uncle Joe's Hong Kong Bistro opened nearly a year ago as a fast-casual Chinese eatery with a short menu of mix-and-match traditional proteins and starches. But the counter-service model was quickly ditched and by spring the restaurant was offering a full-service menu to theater-goers and conventioneers at its location in the Spire building in a space that had previously housed Row 14 Bistro. Gretchen Kurtz reviewed the place in October, finding a few "glimmers of promise," but we also learned at the time that the kitchen and menu were undergoing substantial changes.
Those changes are now in place and Uncle Joe's is touting a new menu of mostly traditional Hong Kong fare with modern flair but with very little in the way of fusion confusion or overt appeals to American palates. Instead, culinary director Thach Tran, a ChoLon alum, and chef Josh Lujan, most recently at Rioja and Euclid Hall, are relying on carefully sourced and house-made ingredients to give each dish a lift.
You'll find Wagyu beef from Colorado's own 7X Ranch in the chow fun and in a stir-fry of strip loin and apple in Asian pear barbecue sauce. A scallop and prawn noodle bowl features scratch-made XO sauce made with dried scallops that owner Dennis Law totes back from regular trips to Hong Kong (where he also owns the only other Uncle Joe's in the world). That scallop dish also comes with "rice pillows" made from broad noodles coiled into tight, springy batons.
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Also new is a roster of shareable, build-your-own hot pots with a choice of two broths (spicy Sichuan or tomato), protein and vegetarian combos and a handful of veggies, noodles and tofu that come with each order. And there are favorites from the original menu, like a blistering, authentic ma po tofu (although its original moniker, Hot Wife's Kickass Tofu, has been dropped), Sichuan jumping chicken and glossy cha shao pork belly, available with regular or "devil" spicing.
On the bar side, a new drinks list has been created that brings the brash fun of typical Chinese cocktails while switching out ingredients to appeal to modern tastes; a blue cocktail relies on subtle creme de violette rather than cloying blue Curacao, for example. In addition to draft beers, there's also Bushido Way of the Warrior sake on tap, a first in Colorado. For alcohol-free drinks, there's a traditional Hong Kong milk tea for a smooth and creamy jolt of caffeine.
Along with all the changes to the cuisine, Uncle Joe's is making a few minor tweaks to the decor — but not so much that regular customers won't recognize the place. Keep reading for more photos.