Sunday, February 26, 2012

5280 Best New Restaurants of 2011

5280 Magazine's March 2012 issue lists the eight best new restaurants in Denver.

Their top selections include three spots that have been reviewed in the Rocky Mountain Oyster: Pizzeria Locale, Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar, and Linger.

5280's complete list of the Best New Restaurants of 2011:

Pinche Taqueria
Tag Raw Bar
Pizzeria Locale
Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar

Looks like I've got five more restaurants to add to my queue!

Check out the article and let's look forward to more great new restaurants in 2012.

Braised Lamb Shank @ Le Grand Bistro and Oyster Bar

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hapa Sushi Grill & Sake Bar - Landmark

I remember very distinctly the first time I had sushi with Mr. Oyster. We were in college in Boulder and had just started dating, and I wanted him to try more adventurous foods than the pizza and pasta he had eaten all his life. I brought him to Hapa Sushi on Pearl Street for his first sushi experience, and he instantly reeled a bit at the sight and smell of the uncooked seafood. After a meal full of various shapes and textures of raw fish, he reluctantly confessed: "well, I guess sushi is ok."

That was many, many years ago now, and since that time Mr. Oyster and I have graduated college, moved to the south suburbs, gotten married, worked too much, and started a food blog. Oh, and Hapa has built a couple more restaurants across the metro area, including one near us at Landmark in Greenwood Village that we visited last weekend.

Hapa is not an ideal spot if you're looking for a truly authentic sushi experience. Its menu is filled with "Americanized" sushi rolls containing sugary sauces, fried things and cream cheese everywhere. You also may not want to bring kids to Hapa, or your grandma, or your boss, as the sushi menu is filled with suggestive names. It's more of a trendy, lively place to grab drinks and dinner with friends. You can see why it would thrive in a college town like Boulder, but it also fills a niche in Landmark by catering to the crowds visiting Comedy Works and nearby bars.

Hapa was nearly full when we arrived for our 6 pm reservations on a Friday night, and was completely packed by the time we left. We sat at the sushi bar and watched the chefs in action while we enjoyed our meal.

We started with a sunomono salad ($6), which was comprised of cucumbers with a vinegar dressing, topped with shrimp and octopus.

Sunomono Salad

The salad looked beautiful but was disappointing in terms of taste. The shrimp and octopus pieces both tasted a bit dry. All that was left below the seafood were a million slices of cucumber, making for a tedious eating experience to finish up the salad. I was glad to be splitting the salad with my husband, or I would've given up on the task of eating so much cucumber.

Hapa offers an extensive beer, sake, and cocktail list. Mr. Oyster was very excited to hear that Great Divide Brewing Company makes a rice beer - simply called Hapa Beer ($4) - specifically for Hapa locations across Denver.

Hapa Beer by Great Divide

The beer was excellent, but it tasted very very similar to Great Divide's Samurai Rice Ale, which is available in limited distribution across Colorado.

We then moved on to a half order of the salmon sashimi ($8.5).

Salmon Sashimi

The simple salmon preparation was perfect. The thickly-sliced pieces were succulent, buttery and rich. I could've eaten about ten of them.

We then enjoyed two sushi rolls, the Dragon Roll ($13) and the Pittsburgh Roll ($7.5).

Dragon Roll (front), Pittsburgh Roll (back)

The Dragon Roll contained crab, shrimp tempura, and cucumber, all wrapped in avocado and eel, and drizzled with a very sweet soy sauce. It was, as expected, decadent, fatty, and rich. I enjoyed it but I was glad we had only ordered one roll that was so heavy tasting.

The Pittsburgh Roll was much simpler than the Dragon, containing only cream cheese, raw salmon, and cucumber. The combination of the fatty salmon, rich cream cheese, and light, crunchy cucumber made for a lovely sushi roll.

Still a bit hungry, we decided to try one last roll, the Mork and Mindy ($8).

Mork and Mindy Roll

This roll contained large chunks of white tuna and salmon, along with chives and mandarin oranges. It was a very fresh, light-tasting and citrusy combination, and a perfect finish to our meal.

I loved the sushi rolls and the sashimi we had at Hapa; I wouldn't get the Sunomono Salad again. Presentation of all the dishes was beautiful.

Don't expect a remotely authentic sushi experience at Hapa at Landmark, but it does have a lively atmosphere, a great drink list, and plenty of decent sushi options.

Casual Dining

(7 of 10)

Pros: Great sushi rolls, reasonably priced
Cons: Crowded, skip the sunomono salad


Hapa Sushi Greenwood Village on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I'm still alive. Just busy.

I know things have been a bit dull around the Oyster lately, and I just wanted to let all two of my followers know that more posts will be up soon. Life has just gotten a bit hectic.

But I've still found time to eat plenty of food and drink plenty of beer, and I'll be back to writing all about it soon.

Oh, and happy Mardi Gras everyone!

The Wanderer by City Beer and The Bruery
City Beer - San Francisco, CA

Monday, February 13, 2012

Go Vote! 5280 Top of the Town and Westword's 2012 Best of Denver Readers' Poll

Westword and 5280 both have reader polls open for the best of Denver 2012:

Westword 2012 Best of Denver Readers' Poll

5280 Top of the Town Ballot

Westword's closes March 22, and 5280's closes March 18.

The polls pertain to all things local, but since I only leave the house to work, eat, and drink beer, I could only comment on the food and drink scene in Denver.

Oh, and feel free to vote for the Rocky Mountain Oyster as "Best Blogger"!

Below are my picks; I only voted when I felt strongly about a certain restaurant or food.

From Westword's Poll:

91. Best brunch

99. Best expense-account dinner

100. Best first-date restaurant
Root Down

101. Best restaurant for a last meal

108. Best bakery
Pierre Michel French Bakery

116. Best brewpub
Southern Sun

117. Best tap house
Avery Brewing Company

119. Best bottle beer list
Hops & Pie

120. Best draft beer list
Hops & Pie

123. Best house margarita

133. Best hot dog
Biker Jim's

137. Best mac and cheese
Hops & Pie OR Biker Jim's

138. Best pizza
Mellow Mushroom OR Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria

142. Best free chips and salsa
La Loma

164. Best French restaurant
Pierre Michel Organic French Bakery OR Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar

165. Best American restaurant
Root Down

From 5280's Poll:

Pierre Michel Organic French Bakery






Gluten-Free Menu:
Root Down

Hot Dog / Sausage:
Biker Jim's

Ice Cream / Gelato:
Sweet Action

Kid-Friendly Restaurant:
Parry's Pizzeria OR Mellow Mushroom (SouthGlenn)

Wooden Table
Patio Dining:
Mellow Mushroom OR Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria

Half Order of Curious Jorge French Toast at Snooze

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Avery Brewing Company

Our quest to drink beer from every corner of the Front Range (so far we've still got a long way to go...) has brought many requisite visits to Avery Brewing Company in Boulder.

Avery is located in kind of a random industrial area in East Boulder, near Cherryvale and Arapahoe. Their directions clearly state to "turn at the car wash" off Arapahoe. From there, you drive back several hundred yards before trying to find a parking spot among the constant crowds at Avery.

The gem hiding behind the car wash

We've been to the tap room three times now, and it's always been fairly busy. Service can be slow, but the waitstaff is extremely knowledgeable about Avery's beer selection.

Mr. Oyster has loved Avery's beer for years, especially their White Rascal and Samael brews. I have an admittedly unrefined palate when it comes to fancy craft beers, but I do enjoy sours and Cascade-hopped IPAs. In particular, I fell in love with Avery's Eremita II beer, which I tried this past December at their tap room.

The colorful Eremita II description, straight from Avery's website:

Eremita II is strong blonde sour ale that has been residing in seven French oak barrels for two years. After a primary fermentation with a Belgian abbey yeast, we pitched it with our house Brettanomyces strain, house pediococcus, and lactobacillus. The resulting beer was a balancing act of rustic farmhouse flavors, mild oak tannins, moderate lactic activity, and an aroma of tropical fruit. After adding a healthy dose of apricots and peaches, we have Eremita II, an incredibly smooth 10.1% aby American Sour Ale. Available only at the Avery Tap Room for a limited time.

Eremita II was one of their revolving "tap-room-only" beers, so unfortunately it existed for only a few weeks before being consumed by the beer-loving Front Range public. It was a short-lived concoction of fruity, sour ale bliss. I wish I'd taken a picture of it, and I wish it still existed, as it was one of my all-time favorites.

Oh, by the way, Eremita is apparently the latin word for hermit, in reference to the fact that Eremita is a tap-room-only beer.

I arrived a few weeks later for their Eremita III, hoping that it met or surpassed my fondness for its predecessor.

Eremita III

It did not. Compared to Eremita III, it simply tasted flat and uninspired, and too similar to so many other sours on the market now.

Both iterations of Eremita had an alcohol content of around 10%, and were sold only in 4-oz taster glasses at $5 each.

Avery offers special tappings every Friday afternoon, which apparently are a really big deal.  The week of our last visit, their just-tapped brew was the Chocolate Mint Stout:

Chocolate Mint Stout

Unfortunately, this beer was an indication that Girl Scout Cookies and fermentation shouldn't be combined. We just didn't care for the mint flavor with the stout.

And I always get my standby, the White Rascal, which is a crowd-pleasing Belgian-style wheat.

Avery does offer food from Savory Cuisines across the parking lot, but having never tried any food there I can't comment on it.

Adjacent to the tap room is their giant barrel-aging cellar, where you can take a sneak peak at which brews are aging for future release.

Avery offers bottles, cans, and kegs of a limited selection of beers, but otherwise you'll be hard-pressed to get any alcohol out of the tap room. Avery does not fill growlers due to a series of concerns regarding the flavor and quality of their beer once it exits the tap room, including vessel cleanliness and maintaining adequate carbonation. Call it beer snobbery or call it good business sense (or both), but don't expect to walk away from Avery with a glass jug filled with beer. We tried. Bummer.


Avery Brewing CO on Urbanspoon