Before Andrew Krull opened Zest Cafe on the corner of South Wadsworth and West Yale, he spent several years scouting the location. That's because he grew up right across the street. Today?in his home slightly away from his home?Krull creates contemporary American cuisine for lunch and dinner. Feast on pan-seared beef tips, roasted vegetables over beds of quinoa, or pizzas crowned with smoked salmon. In the evenings, sip coffee or glasses of wine at the bar, or dine al fresco on the umbrella-forested outdoor patio.
At India Nepal Oven, owner and chef Chhiring Lakpa Lama fuses together South Asian influences to build a menu that equally and tastily represents the countries of India and Nepal. The restaurant's Nepalese specialties dazzle taste buds with diverse flavors found in the spiced lamb kebobs, chili with deep-fried chicken, and vegetable dumplings, which can be steamed, fried, or tossed as confetti at a vegetarian's birthday party. Of the Indian dishes, the chicken entrees are quite popular, including the spicy vindaloo prepared with potatoes and hot curry sauce. A vast selection of breads also garners popularity with the potato-stuffed alu paratha and the kabuli naan, which emerges out of a tandoori oven to surprise palates with a sweet cherry filling.
At Little India Restaurant, authenticity permeates the food, art, and music. Owned by the Baidwan and Malhotra families and staffed with northern India–trained chefs, the restaurant is a multiyear winner of numerous prizes, including CityVoter's award for Best Indian cuisine. Chefs grill meats over mesquite charcoal in the tandoori oven, and season curries with onion, garlic, and ginger. Handcrafted mint-cilantro and tamarind chutneys create opportunities for 11 types of bread to sneak toward unsuspecting droplets of spice-filled sauce, whereas potatoes soften the heat quotient of fiery vindaloos. Within the dining room, calming sitar music fills the air and larger-than-life paintings of food-based revelry decorate the walls and come to life at tables.
Modmarket's chic interior serves as an ideal stage for the mouthwatering performances of the restaurant's wholesome, seasonal culinary stars. The menu—which contains nutritional information for each dish—eases diners into their restorative repast with an array of salads, available in such verdant configurations as thai coconut, whose bed of greens teems with sweet potatoes, chicken, and peanut-mango dressing ($8.75). Many of the eatery's salad dressings contain no gluten, animal byproducts, or narwhal tears, and the from-scratch soup selection always includes at least one vegan option. The restaurant's pizzasmiths forge exotic, innovative creations, such as the pizza sporting fig, goat cheese, gorgonzola, arugula, and pepper ($8.50), and all pizzas are available with soy cheese and whole-grain or gluten-free crusts. Sandwiches, such as the chipotle steak ($8.50), come with a choice of vegan bread or gluten-free wrap and toast to toothsome crispness in a 600-degree brick oven.
If the owner's sommelier status doesn't assure you that Black Pearl Restaurant is serious about its wine, then its multiple Awards of Excellence from Wine Spectator will remove any lingering doubt. But for some, the wine list?impressive though it may be?is secondary to chef Justin Hall's menu of new American cuisine. Denver Westword mooned over its "eye-rollingly sultry duck p?t?" and bestowed Black Pearl with a Best Charcuterie Plate in Denver award in 2014. Eater praised the smoked blue-cheese souffl? as a sumptuous dish worthy of both vegetarians and meat-eaters. The weekend brunch menu keeps up the high bar set by the rest of the week with bottomless mimosas, espresso-custard French toast, and a duck-confit hash skillet.
Executive chef Justin Hall talked to us about developing a menu that both expresses his culinary style and preserves what regulars have come to love about Black Pearl.
On conscientious sourcing: ?We use nothing but locally sourced produce. Our mushrooms come from a company called Hunt & Gather?they?re all hand-foraged, straight from the source. We work with Mcdonald Family Farm, a well-known meat provider, to bring in our whole animals.?
On his current favorite dish: "Right now I'm excited about the burrata caprese salad [with house-made burrata, heirloom tomato, basil pesto, olives, arugula, and grilled ciabatta]. It?s combining a traditional Italian-style burrata with elements of the caprese salad, giving it a new twist.?
On charcuterie: ?One of the highlights of our restaurant is our charcuterie program... Everything is done in-house. We were recently recognized for Best of Denver for our charcuterie.?
Aromatic herbs weasel their way into almost every dish at Real Thai, where chefs add a liberal sprinkling of chilies, basil, lemongrass, galangal, and lime leaf to create their signature dishes. These can take the form of entrees such as green curry that's infused with coconut milk or drunken noodles that are free of inhibition. However, not every dish is built upon a foundation of noodles or rice. They also whip up specialties such as eggplant stuffed with ground chicken and shrimp and drizzled in eel sauce.