Sunday, March 25, 2012


This weekend's adventures brought us to Tamayo, a swanky Mexican restaurant at Larimer Square in downtown Denver.

Tamayo is a Richard Sandoval restaurant, so it gets a lot of press for that reason alone. Richard Sandoval is a chef / restaurateur who runs over a dozen restaurants worldwide, nearly all offering Latin American influenced cuisine. That dynasty includes several spots in the Denver metro area, a couple more in Colorado's ski towns, and many across the United States, Mexico, and the Middle East. We've dined at one of his restaurants in our pre-blog days - Zengo, in the Riverfront area - and we weren't terribly impressed.

Tamayo describes itself on its website as a "modern, exclusive, and festive restaurant that has become a benchmark against which fine Mexican food is measured."

Exclusive, huh? Well, I suppose I have a bit of a weakness for snob appeal. And it's all too easy to consider yourself a benchmark for fine Mexican food in Denver, since there are very few high-end Mexican restaurants to choose from.

That being said, Tamayo has a look and feel similar to Lola on the other side of the Platte River in the Highlands. We're pretty big fans of Lola, so we were curious how the food, service, and atmosphere would compare at Tamayo.

Tamayo's location at Larimer Square puts it near many other well-known Denver restaurants, including Euclid Hall, Rioja, and Osteria Marco. Their rooftop patio draws crowds looking to have dinner or drinks outside, and it was especially busy on the warm and sunny March day of our visit.

We arrived for our dinner reservations with another couple for 7 pm on a Saturday night, and opted to sit inside.

Mural above bar at Tamayo

Perusing the drink menu, Tamayo's beer selection is limited, and they seem to be much more focused on margaritas or tequila cocktails. At $12 each, the margaritas were fairly expensive, and Mr. Oyster was disappointed to find that nothing he tried was nearly as good as his beloved Dr. J margarita at Lola.

To start off the meal, we split a couple entradas among the table.

First up was the Chile Relleno ($13), which comprised of a poblano chile stuffed with gouda cheese, calamari, shrimp, and scallops.

Chile Relleno

Presentation of the stuffed chile was beautiful, and it was packed generously with seafood. However, the shrimp looked and tasted like they were standard frozen shrimp. Also, I felt the dish overall was missing something in terms of flavor, and it wasn't quite as spicy as I would've liked.

Next, we tried the Mahi Mahi Ceviche ($11).

Mahi Mahi Ceviche

Served like a salsa, the mahi mahi pieces arrived in a bowl with a "sweet and spicy," soupy tomato broth, and chips on the side for dipping. For being a completely landlocked state, Denver restaurants seem to get ceviche right. We've tried ceviche dishes at Lola, Linger, and Vesta Dipping Grill, and they've all been well-executed. This was probably my least favorite of any ceviche I've had in Denver, as the broth was just too sweet.

Mr. Oyster and I also split the Tacos De Puntas De Filete ($13), or beef tenderloin tacos.

Tacos de Puntas de Filete

The tacos contained the aforementioned beef tenderloin, cubes of panela cheese, and guacamole. I didn't notice until writing this up, but the menu also stated that the tacos were supposed to contain chile toreado salsa. The tacos certainly could have used something, as the flavors of the cheese and guacamole were too simple, and the beef lacked enough spice or seasoning to make up for it.

We also split one of their Platos Fuertes, the Enchiladas de Jaiba ($23), or crab enchiladas.

Enchiladas de Jaiba

Th enchiladas were filed with lump crab meat, corn, spinach, onions, and cheese, and smothered in a roasted tomatillo sauce. The sauce had a heavy lime flavor, but everything else was a bit bland. The stringy crab meat really didn't stand out in the dish.

Finally, dinner ended with the Empanadas de Platano ($8), or banana empanadas.

Empanadas de Platano

The empanadas were like a churro in pocket form, stuffed with sweetened bananas and topped with coconut ice cream. I loved the mix of creamy coconut, sugary bananas, and cinnamon-drenched empanada. This dessert was my favorite dish of the night, and the only thing that I really enjoyed.

Overall, everything we tried was either average or subpar, and came with a high price tag.  Also, for a place that considers itself "fine dining," the service wasn't quite up to par. Our waiter was very slow to take our orders, timing of dishes was off, and I had a few bits of crud on the bottom of one my forks.

In short, I can't imagine any reason for us to make a return visit to Tamayo. For the high price tag, there are too many other good restaurants in Denver, particularly on this stretch of Larimer. And for coastal Mexican food, Lola in the Highlands is a much better option.

Casual Dining

(5 of 10)

Pros: Rooftop patio, good empanada dessert
Cons: Food disappointing overall, expensive


Tamayo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mr. Oyster's Top 10 Colorado Beers

Mr. Oyster loves beer, he loves Colorado, and he really, really loves Colorado-brewed beers. We are fortunate in Denver to be surrounded by so many great breweries, and Mr. Oyster takes advantage by trying just about every local beer he can get his hands on.

After all that taste-testing, he has narrowed down a list of his top 10 favorites.

To make the list, contending brews had to meet the following criteria:
- Be brewed in Colorado
- Be available for purchase outside of a tap room or brew pub (sorry, Mountain Sun)
- Be available for some indefinite time into the future

Here, in no particular order, are his top 10:

Odell Mountain Standard
Double Black IPA
Odell Brewing Company  Fort Collins, CO

Odell Mountain Standard

Mr. Oyster says: Complex beer with a deep flavor profile. Citrusy, fruity notes mix with roasted, chocolate and toffee flavors.

Odell IPA
India Pale Ale
Odell Brewing Company  Fort Collins, CO

Odell IPA

Mr. Oyster says: Traditional and distinct hop profile. Strong grapefruit notes. Very drinkable and smooth.

Odell Friek
Oak Aged Sour
Odell Brewing Company  Fort Collins, CO

Odell Friek

Mr. Oyster says: Has an intense cherry/raspberry flavor and fruitiness. Oaky, slightly acidic, slightly sour.  

Left Hand Brewing Company Nitro Milk Stout
Sweet Stout
Left Hand Brewing Company Longmont, CO

Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout

Mr. Oyster says: Love this beer on nitro. Creamy, smooth flavor. Strong chocolate and vanilla flavors.

Dry Dock Vanilla Porter
Dry Dock Brewing Company Aurora, CO

Dry Dock Vanilla Porter

Mr. Oyster says: Intense vanilla smell and flavor. Not too sweet and very drinkable. This is my "dessert" beer. 

Dry Dock Hefeweizen
Dry Dock Brewing Company Aurora, CO

Dry Dock Hefeweizen

Mr. Oyster says: Very drinkable and refreshing. Strong banana flavor, also hints of clove and bubblegum. I could drink this every day and never get tired of it.

Great Divide Titan IPA
India Pale Ale
Great Divide Brewing Denver, CO

Great Divide Titan IPA

Mr. Oyster says: Grapefruity and malty. Plenty of hop flavor and bitterness. A very solid IPA.

Avery Samael's Ale
Oak Aged Ale
Avery Brewing Company Boulder, CO

Avery Samael

Mr. Oyster says: Think of it almost more like wine than beer. 15% alcohol content. This ruby-colored beer is very sweet, oaky, and fruity.

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy
Imperial Stout
Oskar Blues Brewery Longmont, CO

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy

Mr. Oyster says: The name Ten Fidy is a reference to the beer's alcohol content - 10.5% ABV. Very dark and smooth beer, with strong malt and chocolate flavors.

New Belgium Mothership Wit
Organic Wheat Beer
New Belgium Brewing Company Fort Collins, CO

New Belgium Mothership Wit

Mr. Oyster says: Wit with citrus and spice flavors. This is a refreshing, light beer that is great for summer.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Linger Revisited

Things have now come full circle: after passing on our booked-a-month-out Linger reservations several months ago to try the rare craft brews at Hops & Pie, we cancelled 5280 Restaurant Week reservations at Trillium to join a couple of friends at Linger last weekend.

The friends who we joined are Linger regulars, and they know many of the employees very well. This was our second visit to Linger; you can read all about my first visit from my initial review.  I'll keep this post brief, since my December 2011 review of Linger was so wordy, and just sum up a few of my thoughts from the weekend.

We decided on four small plates to share among the four of us. I really felt this was a perfect amount of food, and Linger's suggestion of two plates per person is entirely too much.

Linger had scaled back their menu for 5280 Restaurant Week, and they also no longer offered the Crispy Risotto Arancini - one of my "Best Things I Ate in 2011" - since they consider it a fall or winter dish. Bummer.

We started off with the Devils on Horseback (not pictured, $10), which I had at my last visit, and which I've also had a couple times at Root Down. As with the last visit, I felt the bacon-wrapped dates were entirely too sweet, and I much prefer Root Down's version with Peppadew peppers.

Our second dish was their daily special, Mee Krab (not pictured, $10), which is a Thai crispy noodle dish. The dish was very well prepared and we certainly preferred it over the oily Pad Thai we had at our previous visit.

Up next was the Tamarind Braised Short Rib ($18). This plate was significantly more expensive than most of the small plates at Linger, but it was worth it. The meat was extremely tender and well seasoned. The bottom of the dish was filled with rice noodles that had absorbed the flavors of a broth-like beef sauce. Atop the concoction were baby bok choy and jalapenos.

Tamarind Braised Short Rib

Our final small plate of the evening was Yucatan Huarache con Mahi a la Plancha ($15). This is a newer addition to the menu, and was basically a flat fish taco. It was well prepared, but it didn't stand out like the short rib or mee krab.

Yucatan Huarache con Mahi a la Plancha

Since we weren't very impressed with Linger's desserts based on previous visits, we opted for a cheese plate ($15) as our final dish. It arrived with three cheeses, fudge pieces, a fig spread, and a caramel square.

Cheese Plate

It was a lovely sweet and savory pairing, and we all enjoyed it over any of the restarant's standard desserts.

We really enjoyed the food and atmosphere on this particular night. I'm even starting to forgive Linger's intense trendiness, as the hype does seem to be backed up by some great food, attentive service, and a lively ambiance.


Linger on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dry Dock Brewing Company

In our quest for delicious beer across the state of Colorado, I can't believe it took so long for Mr. Oyster and me to visit Dry Dock Brewing Company in Aurora.

Dry Dock is less than a 10-minute drive from our respective workplaces, and the brewery makes an outstanding Hefeweizen and Vanilla Porter.

So a couple Fridays ago, we dodged out of work a bit early to sample some beers at Dry Dock.

Dry Dock's exterior is just as unassuming as you might imagine for an Aurora Brewery.

The brewery won't catch your eye as you drive past it on Hampden, but the interior is impressive. The tap room is a giant, L-shaped space with a small bar and numerous long tables. The nautical motif pervades the decor and beer names.

Dry Dock seems to be the spot to grab an end-of-week beer for the local office-dwellers. In fact, we ran into several of my husband's coworkers there. It was moderately busy when I arrived around 3:30 pm, but was completely packed to standing room by the time we left just before 6 pm.

Dry Dock's brewing philosophy seems to focus on simple yet sharply-flavored beers. Their Hefeweizen is smooth, light, and easy to drink in large quantities, and it has an intense taste of bananas and bubblegum. Their Vanilla Porter tastes like dessert in beer form, with a very strong, sweet vanilla taste.

Dry Dock Vanilla Porter

We tried most of Dry Dock's other brews while at the tap house, but unfortunately none of them lived up to the perfection of their Hefeweizen or Vanilla Porter.

Adjacent to their tap room is Dry Dock's extensive home brew shop, where the staff was happy to provide the recipe for their Hefeweizen free of charge.

Dry Dock's expansive and popular Aurora tap room proved to be a great place to enjoy some of their excellent beers in a low-key suburban location. The ample seating room would make it a great place for a large happy hour - if you can get there early enough.


 Dry Dock Brewery on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thai Monkey Club

Last Sunday we found ourselves on a journey to Thai Monkey Club, which supposedly offered Thai food so good that it warranted a long drive from the suburbs to Denver.

We headed toward the south Broadway / Wash Park / Baker district that we only seem to venture into for food; Sweet Action Ice Cream and Beatrice & Woodsley are just a couple blocks away.

Thai Monkey Club doesn't look like much from the outside. It's situated on a eclectic part of south Broadway known for good restaurants, antique shops, and kitschy furniture. Oh, and there's plenty of places like the adult video store that's right across the street from Thai Monkey Club.

So why were we at Thai Monkey Club anyway? Well, because we love Thai food but we haven't tried nearly enough Thai places around town. One of our friends, let's call him "Chang," found the restaurant a couple weeks ago and has raved about it, so we figured it was worth a stop.

Chang met up with us for our earlybird dinner at 3 pm on a Sunday. Despite the unassuming exterior, Thai Monkey Club's interior was filled with brightly painted walls, Thai art, and a giant monkey mural. The restaurant was small, with tables to seat only maybe 25 people. It was completely empty when we showed up, and a few other couples arrived while we ate.

Our waiter was a bit slow to take our orders, but our food arrived incredibly quickly once he had done so.

We started off with the Fresh Spring Rolls ($4.95), which Chang had warned us were the one item he'd tried at Thai Monkey Club that he didn't like.

Spring Rolls

The spring rolls were very average. They were packed with vegetables, which is normally a good thing, but there was just too much lettuce. The rolls also contained quite a bit of mint, which I enjoyed, but other people may dislike the intense mint flavor. People like Chang.

But the spring rolls were soon redeemed by the deliciousness of our entrees.

My husband selected the Drunken Noodles with chicken ($7.95 + $2 for chicken). Thai Monkey Club offers its patrons a selection of spiciness levels between 1 and 6, with a 3 supposedly being "fairly hot."  Mr. Oyster is a big tough guy and he opted for a "4."

Drunken Noodles

The drunken noodles were excellent. The dish was very heavy on the vegetables, containing large chunks of red pepper, baby corn, tomatoes, Chinese broccoli, and carrots. The chicken and egg were less prominent but very tasty and well cooked. The sauce itself was very spicy (as requested) and flavorful.

And I ordered my Thai go-to dish, the Panang Curry ($8.95 + $2 for chicken):

Panang Curry

I had to keep up with my husband, so I ordered it at a level "4" as well.

The curry base was outstanding. Yes, it was spicy. It had the perfect mix of coconut, spices, and chili heat. Like the Drunken Noodles, the curry was heavy on vegetables, particularly bell pepper and broccoli. The chicken was cut in small pieces and had absorbed much of the curry flavor. The dish was served with a large heap of rice that I used to cut out some of the heat.

I definitely preferred this Panang curry over Tuk Tuk's - and that's saying a lot, because I still love the Panang at Tuk Tuk. Thai Monkey Club's curry tasted less sweet and less coconut-heavy than at Tuk Tuk. Keep in mind, however, that entrees at Thai Monkey Club cost about $3 more than comparable dishes at Tuk Tuk.

After sweating our way through the curry and drunken noodles, we were very satisfied with our meal at Thai Monkey Club. If it were closer to our house, we'd probably be ordering take-out from them at least once a week. I'm not sure how it compares to any of the surrounding Thai restaurants, but we'll certainly try to make another visit when we're in the area.

Everyday Dining

(8 of 10)

Pros: Excellent Drunken Noodles and Panang Curry.
Cons: Service a little slow, prices a little high


Thai Monkey Club on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Kitchen

The Kitchen is a much-buzzed Boulder farm-to-table restaurant that elbowed its way to the #14 spot on 5280's 25 Best Restaurants list in October 2011.

Mr. Oyster and I visited The Kitchen a couple years ago in our pre-blog days and we felt a bit lukewarm about the place, but we decided to give it another try last weekend.

The Kitchen lies immediately west of the Pearl Street Mall, just next door to Salt. Adjacent to The Kitchen are its sister restaurants, The Kitchen [Upstairs], and The Kitchen [Next Door].

The Kitchen seems to epitomize Boulder with its ubiquitous use of the word "community," its commitment to renewable energy, and its nonprofit dedicated to gardens in schools.

We stopped by for brunch on a Saturday at 12:30 pm.. The Kitchen doesn't take reservations for brunch, and securing a table was no easy feat. We were told that the wait would be about 20 minutes, and after that 20 minutes passed we were offered a patio seat. Considering how blustery it was that day, I'm surprised the staff would seat people outside. We opted to wait another ten or so minutes for an indoor spot. Once that was "ready", we went inside and then had to wait a few more minutes before the table was fully prepped.

And we were finally ready to begin our meal. Our waiter brought a carafe of water, and I ordered a latte ($3.95).


My latte was perfect. The swirled foam layer was frothy, thick, and creamy. The sugar chunks on the side made for a beautiful presentation.

My husband decided on the Long Family Farm Ham with poached eggs, Hollandaise, and an English muffin ($14), which The Kitchen curiously spells out on their menu rather than call it "Eggs Benedict." The dish arrived with a side of breakfast potatoes.

Eggs Benedict

The presentation was lovely and the portion was fairly large. The bread was topped with multiple layers of thinly-sliced ham, poached eggs, and a generous helping of creamy hollandaise sauce.

The benedict was good but not particularly special. The hollandaise and ham both tasted a bit bland.

The breakfast potatoes were really the star of this dish. They were perfectly seasoned, and cooked to a crispy exterior and soft interior.

My brunch dish was the Spicy Long Farm Pork Green Chili ($14), which came with two eggs and cornbread.

Spicy Long Farm Pork Green Chili

The Kitchen advertises this dish as "spicy" by the first word in the dish's title, but it really had no heat at all to it. I was disappointed by the lack of spiciness, although the chili was otherwise well-seasoned and filled with large chunks of pork. The cornbread cube was dry and bland; I had to mix it with the chili to make it enjoyable to eat.

I hadn't requested any specifics as far as how the eggs were cooked, but they were served in the exact form I prefer them: over-medium, with just a hint of runny yolk.

Service was a little slow but otherwise good. The waitstaff did a great job of refreshing our water carafe and my husband's iced tea.

The Kitchen offers a great restaurant concept in terms of their commitment to farm-to-table dining and community support. However, their prices feel a bit steep and their brunch offerings just don't quite come together for me.

Casual Dining

(6 of 10)

Pros: High quality ingredients, great lattes
Cons: Food sometimes lacking in flavor and cohesion, long wait for table at brunch


The Kitchen on Urbanspoon