Sunday, March 20, 2011


After reading many appetizing Yelp reviews and seeing its very high ranking on 5280's Best Restaurants list, my husband and I were very excited to check out Mizuna near Governor's Park.

We showed up with empty stomachs at Mizuna for reservations at 6:15 pm on a Saturday.  Their location is modest from the outside, and you can tell before even walking in that the restaurant isn't very big. The dining area at Mizuna is really just one small, minimally-decorated room, filled to capacity with a dozen or so tables and a bar. 

My husband and I were seated at a small two-person table in the corner, just a couple of feet away from the neighboring table.  We were attended to very prompty by our waitress, who was very knowledgeable and attentive throughout the meal. 

We shared two appetizers: the lobster macaroni and cheese and the escargot. The lobster consisted of an entire claw plus a couple other large chunks, so big that they had to be cut with a knife before eating.  The sauce was more creamy than cheesy, but it had a nice flavor that blended well with the sweet lobster and plain pasta.

Macaroni and Cheese with Lobster

The escargot dish was very different from what I've seen at other French restaurants.  Instead of a simple presentation of only the escargot, the snails arrived in a broth with hon-shimeji (I'd never heard of them either) mushrooms and a popover on the side.  The popover was ok, maybe a little bland, and it didn't really add anything to the dish.  The mushrooms were cooked perfectly, well-seasoned, and had a nice chewy texture.  However, the escargot itself was just plain bad.  They were tough, gritty, and lacking any attempt at seasoning or flavor.  We agreed this was the worst escargot either of us have ever had. 


After that disappointment, it was time for entrées.

I had ordered the Atlantic Monkfish, which came with "Sunchoke Purée, Oyster Mushrooms, Beef Daube, Truffle Port Reduction".  My dish was perfect.  The presentation was beautiful, it tasted delicious, and it was worth every penny.  The monkfish was perfectly cooked, with a seasoned crust on top.  I'd never had sunchoke before, but the "sunchoke puree" tasted like a very rich, creamy vein of runny mashed potatoes.  The oyster mushrooms were blended with the beef daube to make sort of a river of beef-mushroom stew down the middle of my plate.  It was the highlight of my meal. 


Muy husband had ordered the Pan Roasted Venison Loin, which came with "Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Wilted Brussels Sprouts, Chestnut Velouté".  It was just as well presented as my monkfish, but unfortunately missed on taste.  The sweet potato gnocchi was good, the brussel sprouts average, and the veloute was basically a wet jumble of a few nuts that I don't actually remember making their way onto any bites of food.  His venison was well cooked but way, way, way, too salty. 


For the finale, we ordered the Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake, their "signature dessert", with macadamia nut brittle and malted ice cream.  What arrived was simply a tiny "lava cake" topped with a scoopt of ice cream and surrounded by crushed macadamia nuts. Considering I seem some incarnation of this dessert at nearly every restaurant I go to, I was disappointed by the lack of creativity.

Our bill came to about $140 for two appetizers, two entrees, dessert and a glass of red wine.  We really wanted to like Mizuna, but it just didn't deliver on quality of food. 

Fine Dining
(5 of 10)

Pros: Good service, my entree (monkfish) was outstanding
Cons: Food is completely hit-or-miss, boring decor, a little cramped inside

Mizuna on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pizzeria Locale: So much hype, so little crust

There's been a lot of excitement about the opening of Pizzeria Locale's modest space east of Boulder's Pearl Street Mall.  That's mostly because it shares owners with the fancy Frasca Food and Wine, just down the street, and because of their famously painstaking effort to duplicate a true Neapolitan pizza (see Denver Post article for more details). 

My husband, my mother and myself stopped in for lunch this past Saturday.  At 12:15, they were busy enough that there were no tables available, but we were able to grab seats at the pizza bar.  Yes, the pizza bar - think a sushi bar but with pizza, centered around their fancy wood-fired oven.

The owners certainly channeled a southern European feel in their restaurant, but that may just be because everything is so small.  The space itself is small, the tables are small, the water glasses are small (with no ice, of course). 

Service was very good.  The waiter suggested that pies were "personal" sized, but we opted to split two - the Diavola and the Quattro Formaggi - between the three of us. 

The Diavola came with marina sauce, a very light spread of mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, and a spicy salami.  The Quattro Formaggi was, as expected, much heavier on the cheese, containing mozzarella, Parmesan, ovin sardo, and fontina.  While not health food, this pizza really isn't the calorie bomb most of us are used to.  If you're expecting something like an Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza to come out of the oven, you may not recognize what's on your plate.

I'm no Neapolitan pizza connoisseur, but the authenticity of their pies seems legit.  The crust is light, delicate and chewy.  In fact, it becomes so flimsy in the center that you probably want to eat your slice with a fork and knife.  Cheeses, sauces, and toppings were very flavorful and fresh, despite their long trek from Italy to our table. Splitting the two pizzas between the three of us was the perfect amount of food.

We finished off dinner with a biscotti, which was pleasantly soft and not too sweet. 

Overall, this pizza was decent but not too remarkable. However, for the totally reasonable prices - $9-$18 per pizza - it's certainly worth a visit.

Casual Dining
(7 of 10)

Good service, high quality ingredients

Good luck getting a table, but there are a dozen more restaurants nearby with a similar concept and menu


Pizzeria Locale on Urbanspoon