Elway's/Matsuhisa shochu dinner so good

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Nancy Levine
Philip Tanaka's yellowtail with jalapeno, cilantro and yuzu

I hated the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. For a year the PR hype machine had told me how great it was going to be, and then everyone I know who saw it told me how great it was and how much I'd love it. So by the time I finally saw the movie, it could never match the hype surrounding it (I couldn't wait for him to die). I feared the same thing would happen when I walked into Elway's in Cherry Creek last night for a special shochu dinner.

I'd been reading for a month about the dishes that chefs Tyler Wiard of Elway's and Philip Tanaka of Nobu Matsuhisa in Aspen were going to pair with this Japanese liquor that comes in a variety of flavors (versions are made from rice, wheat, sesame seeds, even from sweet potatoes); they sounded so spectacular that I was prepared to be let down.

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Tyler Wiard's Colorado lamb loin with grilled maitake mushrooms, wilted tatsoi greens and crispy lotus root

But now I'm thrilled to report that the food more than lived out to the advance billing - as did the liquor. Standouts: Tanaka's Matsuhisa surf menu of potato gauffrette, Bigeye tuna tartar, spicy miso and foie gras snow (yes, that's right, foie gras snow) and Wiard's turf menu of grilled rabbit saddle with black truffle-scallion rice cakes, candied galangal root and micro arugula, and the flash-seared Colorado lamb loin with grilled maitake mushrooms, wilted tatsoi greens and crispy lotus root.

As for the shochu? My favorite was the Nobu, made with rice, imported from Japan and, unfortunately, available in this country only at Nobu. My second favorite was the Kitchom shochu, made from wheat. You can drink Shochu straight or enjoy it in a cocktail. I tried the White Rabbit, made with rice shochu and Calpico (a sweet and tangy Japanese soda), and garnished with yamamomo (a small, cherry-sized Japanese fruit).

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Some of the varieties of shochu served at Elway's

At the end of the night, after an amazing amount of amazing food and shochu, little cedar boxes masquerading as glasses and filled with sake were handed to everyone -- because who can't have just a little more Japanese alcohol.

It was a great night full of really exceptional food that I could live on for years. Domo arigato.

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The wheat shochu came in the best bottle.



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