Happy Place: ChoLon, 1555 Blake Street, 303-353-5223
The Hours: Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close.
The Deals: $7 specialty cocktails; $5 well cocktails; $3 beers; $5 small plates.
Were we happy? Flip the page to find out.
The Digs: When ChoLon opened last October, it quickly became the buzz of the Denver food scene, and with good reason: Lon Symensma, the chef running the line, was the former head toque of Buddakan in New York City, as well as a renowned Vongerichten protégé. In addition, ChoLon differed greatly from the Mediterranean-meets-New-American menus that overrun the city like a common cold. A chic LoDo corner space sealed the deal -- and a star was born.
We love the first-class dining room, but most of the time we prefer to belly up to the bar at ChoLon. It boasts the same floor-to-ceiling windows as the dining room, and the dark granite bar is spacious and sleek. The lounge area -- flanked with narrow, plush, black leather settees and tree trunk cocktail tables -- attracts overflow from the bar and patrons in need of a good sprawl. The bar fills up quickly on most nights, and if you're looking to stay for the long haul, it's best to arrive early.
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The Verdict: There are a million things to adore about ChoLon -- things that keep us coming back again and again -- but it's the food and libations that have us truly enamored If you haven't had ChoLon's soup dumplings yet, you're missing out. Symensma fills the delicate steamed pockets with roasted sweet onions, an herbed beef broth, and a touch of cave-aged Gruyere cheese. The result is a basket of warm dumplings that give way to the perfect burst of savory French onion soup. They're a little French, a little Asian, and a whole lot scrumptious.
There aren't a lot of options on the ChoLon happy hour menu, but the list of edibles is more than sufficient -- and regardless of what you order, end with the kaya toast. An appropriate "dessert," the sweetened toast points are served with a fluffy, warm-spiced egg cloud -- think French toast on crack. ChoLon also pimps some of the best cocktails in the city, many of which are available during happy hour. Our favorite is the full moon margarita, a smoky, tequila-laced infusion finished with a spicy cayenne rim.
We could drink those -- and feast like pigs on the dumpling and kaya toast -- until the cows come home.
Overall Grade: A