Hapa Sushi: We decided to spend our first day in Denver shopping in the Cherry Creek area. There are so many great options including brand name department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom as well as small boutiques and interesting furniture stores. Right in the heart of the Cherry Creek area is a small and posh sushi spot called Hapa Sushi. It is comfortable and casual with fantastic food that really exceeded my expectations. We splurged on magic mushrooms, steamed shumai, crispy ahi tuna, and a boatload of sushi including spider rolls, spicy tuna rolls, and more. The magic mushrooms were stuffed with creamy avocado and topped with “Hapa sauce”. Super rich, but absolutely delicious. I also thought the spider roll with softshell crab was excellent, and the crispy seared ahi encrusted with Japanese rice crackers was a winner in my book. Hapa Sushi is located at 2780 E. 2nd Avenue, Denver, CO 80206.
NoRTH Modern Italian: NoRTH is nestled within the Cherry Creek area of Denver and it part of Fox Restaurant Concepts which is home to over ten restaurants across the Arizona and Colorado areas. Immediately when I walked inside I just knew I was going to love this place. It was warm and inviting, we got to sit in a cozy booth made of an arc shaped couch, and the brick walls and dim lighting made me excited to settle in for a comforting meal. The menu includes pastas, pizzas, and appealing entree dishes such as tuna, short rib, and scallops. We ordered one bottle of white wine (Simi Chardonnay), and one bottle of red wine (Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon), and we started with calamari and a warm Italian cheese with garlic bread and tomato jam for our appetizers. The calamari was crunchy and served on a bed of arugula with a light lemon dressing; not greasy in the least and provided a perfect acidic crunchy bite to start. The cheese was gooey and delicious and we slathered it all over the garlic bread for a homestyle treat. Finally, we all sprung for pastas as our main entrees. I ordered the simple bucatini with tomato, ricotta cheese, and meatballs. It did not disappoint! NoRTH is located at 190 Clayton Lane, Denver, CO, 80206.
West End Tavern: We woke up on Saturday morning and decided to drive to Boulder, CO for a little hiking. Even thought it was raining, we still decided to climb the Mt. Sanitas trail which was really beautiful. After being out in the cold and rainy weather we decided to head to West End Tavern to dry off and indulge a bit. We all ordered beer or cider and then dug into some delicious burgers and chicken wings while we thawed out. It was a perfect choice for the day and it was nice to get a taste of the college town. Our bartender was even from Arlington, VA and very generously treated us to a round of drinks. West End Tavern is located at 926 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302.
Linger: As soon as Bon Appetit came out with its “Top 50 Best New Restaurants” list in the September 2012 issue and I saw Linger on the list, I emailed my friend Holly and told her we had to go here. The restaurant concept is small plates from different regions across the world. We had a fantastic waitress who explained they recommend 1.5-2 plates per person, and we quickly started ordering. While I was not blown away by all of the dishes here, there were a few standouts for me: the waffle sweet potato fries were crispy and delicious, and the ginger-chili shrimp was my favorite of the night with papaya, scallions, peanuts, and sesame seeds. Crunchy and sweet at the same time. I also loved the mongolian BBQ duck bun, and the chicken b’stilla was the sleeper hit: crispy pastry, almonds, apricots, golden raisins, saigon cinnamon, harissa, preserved lemon yogurt & heirloom greens salad. We weren’t thrilled with the salty pad thai, and I thought my french onion mussels had so much promise but weren’t quite as good as I had hoped, but the restaurant had a lot of hits and a lively and fun atmosphere. Linger is located at 2030 W. 30th Avenue, Denver, CO, 80211.
Denver is quite a cool city with a lot to offer. The food scene is diverse and definitely left me wanting for more. I can’t wait to head back again and explore further, and I’m lucky to now have a friend who lives in town that is generous enough to let me crash at her place.