An award-winning Japanese restaurant from a James Beard winner, a barbecue joint that combines traditions from across the country, and a new weekly supper club at Stowaway
Chef Tyson Cole has an impressive list of credits: James Beard Award winner, sushi master, expert flavor alchemist. After a recent tasting at the new Denver location of the award-winning Japanese restaurant Uchi (the first outside of Texas), we have another plaudit for the restaurant partner and his team: maestros of the perfect bite.
Arranging fresh fish (flown in from Tokyo) with complimentary and unexpected ingredients to make plates sing with every chopstick-ful, Cole says, is Uchi’s inspiration: “I started making sushi more than 20 years ago and I fell in love with combining raw fish with different things, like fruit. The food at Uchi (which means ‘house’ in Japanese) is bright and refreshing—you leave happy.”
We started with the daily specials menu, sampling the coast with California sea urchin ($12 for two) and oysters with kimchi granite ($4.50). The Tako plate (octopus on a sweet potato latke; $23) proved that holiday-style comfort food and sushi can, in fact, make an outstanding pair.
The main menu is expansive—offering everything from veggies to tempura to sweets—and equally exciting. Next visit, we plan to make a meal of the sushi and sashimi bites section ($3-$10 for one piece), each fish piece “decorated” with other ingredients, not to mention the ham (katsu pork belly) and eggs (yolk custard) maki ($10), so good people order more than one roll at a time. Our favorite drink? The Japanese whisky-based House of Suntory ($15).
For dessert, the pistachio choux with strawberry lemon jam and yuzu ice cream is a must-order. Something else that’s pretty sweet: This location houses Uchi’s first greenhouse, a collaboration with Denver’s Altius Farms.
The team leaves little to chance: The modern decor and dishware are minimalist, and each dish comes with noshing instructions. Follow them and you won’t miss any of the magic. You might find a tip to use at home, too. “Add fruit to any dish, even apples, and people will freak out,” Cole says. You got it, chef. —Kendall Kostelic
2500 Lawrence St.
In this country, you’d be hard-pressed to find a food more distinct from region to region—and more passionately debated— than barbecue. From the vinegary variety of the Carolinas to the smoky maximalism of the famous “Texas Trinity” (sausage, brisket, and ribs), proper barbecue technique has been hotly argued among pitmasters since the early days of American cooking. Smok, a new counter-service restaurant inside the Source Hotel and Market Hall, takes a shot at dissolving these differences with an egalitarian mashup of styles that draws on the culinary upbringing of chef Bill Espiricueta, formerly of Oak and Acorn, who spent the first 15 years of his life eating barbecue in one of the cuisine’s meccas, Texas, and the next 15 cooking it in another, Kansas City.
The menu has three main sections—shareable plates, sandwiches, and by-the-pound meat—that read like an encyclopedia of regional techniques. You’ll find offerings like the fried Nashville hot chicken with ginger slaw ($14) listed alongside Carolina pulled pork ($12) and Kansas City-style burnt ends ($15), as well as options further removed from typical barbecuejoint fare: fried hush puppies with red pepper jelly ($5), cheddar-bacon-ranch jalapeño poppers ($5), market-price smoked fish of the day. Frozen cocktail slushies ($13-$15)—fat-cutting and boozy, a nice match for heavy meats—take a top spot on the bar menu.
Everything is served on metal trays lined with butcher paper. No frills are needed here, Espiricueta believes. This is barbecue’s universal code of honor. It’s the meat that matters. —Andrew Weaver
3330 Brighton Blvd. #202
It should come as no surprise that Stowaway Kitchen, the rustically hip café in RiNo that opened in 2015, was created by a husband-wife duo, Hayden Barnie and Amy Cohen. Or that that duo loves, more than anything else, to travel. (They first met while living in Japan.) Stowaway is the kind of place that radiates familial warmth and a sense of worldly adventure simultaneously—the former a product of Barnie and Cohen’s obvious passion for each other; the latter, of their shared passion for food they’ve eaten abroad.
Though initially conceived as a breakfast and lunch operation, Stowaway recently introduced a weekly supper club, a first-come, first-served dinner program on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For those who know the restaurant’s eclectic daytime offerings, which often combine elements of different cultures mixed into single dishes, the dinner options will feel pleasantly familiar. One of the current small plates, the smoked fried potatoes ($8), incorporates creamy roasted garlic labneh, bright-red romesco, and a nutty El Trigal Manchego in a funky blend of Greek and Catalan influences that feels like the result of a Mediterranean trip Barnie and Cohen must have taken at some point—a culinary souvenir. The shrimp tagine ($16) with red pepper couscous and fried ribbons of crispy fennel brings some Maghrebi flair to the menu, while the plum braised lamb shoulder ($17) hits closer to home, with Colorado-sourced meat and chard, turmeric whipped cauliflower, and roasted brussels sprouts. The cocktail menu, simple but effective, offers three original creations—one featuring arak, an anise-flavored West Asian spirit—presented alongside an unfussy program of beer and wine. —A.W.
2528 Walnut St.