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I’m a fan of all the flavors of Asian cuisine, and Denver has a wide variety of restaurants to choose from to celebrate the remainder of the Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and then add to your regular dining sequence after the end of May. Every Asian community has its unique flavors and cuisine styles. Sure, Japanese ramen, Thai and Chinese beef noodle soups, and pho are all hearty soups served in a bowl, but they are extremely satisfying in a variety of ways, from porky to meaty. And while soy sauce is the most common ingredient, five spices shine in some Chinese broths, and curry is of course the rule in Indian cuisine. There are also several ways to enjoy your meal, from sipping the soup to grilling your own Korean ‘cue’.
Now that pandemic restrictions have been eased, it’s the perfect time to start supporting family-owned Asian restaurants – in case you haven’t already. Here are twelve of my favorites:
2720 Canyon Boulevard, Boulder
Although there is now an Aloy Modern Thai at 2134 Larimer Street in Denver, Boulder is the original location, and I’ve had many satisfying lunches here. The food is traditional but somehow modern and hip presented, with some dishes that are not often found elsewhere, such as the garlic-rich slow cooked beef noodle soup.
2655 28th Street, Boulder
Vietnamese restaurants fall into two main categories: noodle shops that serve pho and perhaps banh mi sandwiches, and restaurants with huge, expansive menus. Chez Thuy in Boulder added pho after it became popular with Americans, but this restaurant has a much longer history of making a wide variety of Vietnamese dishes, and all of it is incredibly great. Because owner Thuy Le knows her trade: She was the “T” in the T-Wa Inn, the first Vietnamese restaurant to open in Denver, then moved north in 1992 and opened Chez Thuy, which is still in existence today.
3970 North Broadway, Boulder
The Fan family has run this small, funky restaurant in a mall in north Boulder for years (look for the only Lucky’s grocery store in the area) with a standard menu of American-Chinese dishes. But search the menu and you will find “Shanghai Specials” below. One of the fan daughters calls them “authentic dishes” on their menu at the Longmont location, and that includes Ants Climbing a Tree (no bugs, relax) and cold spicy beef tendon.
7570 Sheridan Boulevard, Arvada
Restaurateur Joe Kim was fresh out of college when he took over his aunt’s Korean barbecue place in a quiet Arvada mall and turned that single place into a family-run chain with locations on Broadway and Colorado Boulevard in Denver, one in Aurora (where a second is on the way) and even in Fort Collins. The food is tasty and consistent from the grill, flavorful soups and bowls (he spells it “Bee Beem Bhop”), banchan side dishes, and newer additions like Dak Nalgae – Korean fried chicken wings.
Domo dishes come with a variety of side dishes.
This is the only restaurant – let alone a Japanese restaurant – anywhere with an attached Aikido Dojo (owner / chef Gaku Homma is the Sensei-in-Residence) and a Japanese garden with a Koi pond. There’s even a Japanese country museum that houses Homma’s collection of objects from Japanese peasant life in the 19th century. The food is as unique as the rustic décor in the country-style dining room from Homma’s hometown of Akita Prefecture. Sushi is not served on delicate plates or tricky boats, but as a hearty meal, and the many hot pot dishes and grilled dishes come with a variety of cool little side dishes. This place is very Japanese, so much so that visitors from Japan like to eat at Domo when in Denver because they no longer get that type of food in Japan – at least not in the big cities.
1221 Spruce Street, Boulder
The Izakaya Amu is a tiny, great izakaya with bar seating where you can watch your little dishes being artfully prepared, as well as a couple of tatami mat rooms behind the kitchen for group meals. The menu is large and everything is well prepared. No, Amu doesn’t share a menu with Sushi Zanmai next door; this is a bouldering icon that even fed the Emperor and Empress of Japan when they toured Colorado in the 1990s. The restaurants share ownership and a door so staff can go from one room to another, but Amu is its own beautiful world.
Lao Wang noodle house
945 Federal Boulevard South, Unit D
I’ve loved the dumplings here for years, both the pot stickers and the Xiao Long Bao soup dumplings. I’ve always called them the best dumplings in the universe, and I haven’t found any that surpassed them. The beef noodle soup is also out of this world. Owners Chung-Ming and Tse-Ming Wang are moody at times (“No, we’re closed! Go away!”), But their food speaks volumes for the little shop.
A Vietnamese restaurant in Westminster.
8767 Sheridan Boulevard, Westminster
The pandemic has made us look for new places to try different dishes, including pho joints. Oanh and Thanh Do opened One Vietnamese (Oanh is pronounced “One”) in August 2019 in a mall on Sheridan Boulevard near the Boulder Turnpike. The pho is good, but the impressively large menu has other great options too – especially modernized fusion dishes like udon xao bo luc lac (filet-udon) and Pan-Asian dishes, including fried basil rice.
The noodles are the star at Ramen Star.
4044 Tejon Street
Takashi Tamai has something that the other standout ramen shops in Denver don’t have: homemade ramen noodles that he makes every morning. These noodles, along with Tamai’s relentless pursuit of perfection in his special Tonkotsu-style bowl, the Ramen Star, just earned him the Best of Denver 2021 award for the best ramen, and it’s well deserved.
2917 West Mississippi Avenue
Dim Sum fans are legion, and this large room at the unpretentious intersection of South Federal and Mississippi serves the best – and best selection – of the trolley Chinese small plates you could ever ask for. At the start of the pandemic, when Asian restaurants were seeing a sharp drop in customers before they closed, Mayor Michael Hancock put on a show to eat here to urge Denver residents to support local Asian businesses.
Yes, great Asian food ad Woody’s Wings & Things.
Woody’s Wings N Things
6817 Lowell Boulevard, Westminster
Woody’s is one of our all-time favorites, both for its unusual backstory and its excellent food. A Cambodian bought into a Buffalo Chicken Wing franchise and, over the years, began adding an impressive selection of fabulous Cambodian, Thai, Lao, and Vietnamese dishes to a huge photo album of a menu – with no price quotation. And yes, you can always order some damn fine chicken wings and even french fries with it.
The buffet may be gone, but the individual dishes are great at Yak & Yeti.
Yak & Yeti
7803 Ralston Road, Arvada
Unfortunately, thanks to the pandemic, the era of the Yak & Yeti Buffets could be over. But each of the four Yak & Yeti locations, which serve the restaurant’s own microbreweries, are still worth checking out (Westminster Restaurant is a few doors down from One Vietnamese). Indian cuisine is authentic and delicious, even if you can’t try any of the buffet items. Our favorite is the Olde Town Arvada location installed in a house dating back to 1864 that may be haunted by the ghost of one of its owners. This is also where the chain’s beers are brewed.
As the rules change from day to day, be sure to check with the individual restaurants before you leave.
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