Review: Gone Swishin' at Kobe An Shabu Shabu

Danielle Lirette
What's cooking? Shabu shabu at Kobe An Shabu Shabu.
Kobe An Shabu Shabu
3400 Osage Street

Somewhere along the line, cooking became a chore. For reasons best left to food historians and sociologists, the art of feeding ourselves has tumbled in popularity and now hovers just above taking out the trash on the list of most despised household tasks. But if the activity at Kobe An Shabu Shabu, a niche Japanese restaurant that opened in Highland this summer, is any indication, people will not only cook, but they'll pay good money to do so -- provided they're in a swanky space drinking plum wine with friends.

Owners Marco and Michelle Trujillo, who took over Kobe An in Lakewood from Michelle's mother a decade ago (that restaurant just closed in anticipation of a move to Cherry Creek), have been dreaming of opening a shabu shabu restaurant ever since. Since sushi and ramen have caught on in this town, they reasoned, why wouldn't shabu shabu work, too?

See also: Behind the Scenes at Kobe An Shabu Shabu

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Review: Far From Forgotten, Argyll Whisky Beer Is Better Than Ever in Uptown

Danielle Lirette
Argyll's Spot of Tea hits the spot. Check out more of what's on Argyll's menu.
Argyll Whisky Beer
1035 East 17th Avenue

Whiskey isn't my drink of choice, but it was the night I walked into Argyll Whisky Beer. Sure, it had been that kind of day. But I was also in that kind of place, with lights resembling gas lanterns, plaid carpeting and gray walls that took on a bluish tinge as night fell.

Across the sprawling restaurant, past the open kitchen and communal table with its sturdy, upholstered-back stools, a crowd filled the bar, drinking beer, watching games and celebrating the start of the weekend with the gusto of Thursday-night revelers.
Beyond them, in the wraparound atrium with views of 17th Avenue and Downing Street, people laughed and ate charcuterie against a blurry backdrop of red brake lights and white headlights. Those rooms, gutted and redone to remove any resemblance to Las Margaritas, which had previously occupied the space, felt lively and fun and very much like Denver. But in the back dining room, the quietest and most well-appointed of Argyll's spaces, I felt a world away -- which is where you sometimes want restaurants to take you.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Argyll Whisky Beer

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Review: At Fifty, Saucy Noodle Ristorante Feels Like an Old Friend

Danielle Lirette
Mamma's baked lasagna. See more of what's on Saucy Noodle's menu.
Saucy Noodle Ristorante
727 South University Boulevard

In August, just days after the owners of Lechuga's, one of Denver's oldtime Italian restaurants, sold their spot and retired, Saucy Noodle Ristorante celebrated a different kind of milestone: its fiftieth anniversary. Curious to see why the Noodle has survived when so many other red-sauce joints -- including Pagliacci's, Carbone's Italian Sausage Deli and Longo's Subway Tavern -- have gone dark, I went in search of some hot, hard facts to twirl around my fork.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Saucy Noodle Ristorante

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Review: LYFE Kitchen Has Good Intentions but Needs More

Danielle Lirette
Soup is good food: the corn chowder at LYFE Kitchen. Check out more of what's on LYFE's menu.
LYFE Kitchen
8505 Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree

A meal at LYFE Kitchen isn't just supposed to fill you up; it's supposed to make you feel good. Founded three years ago in California by a pair of former McDonald's executives and an investment banker, this rapidly expanding chain, which entered the Denver market this summer with a location in the Park Meadows Shopping Center, takes wellness seriously. The restaurant shuns white flour, cream and butter, and doesn't have a fryer. It offers lengthy vegan/vegetarian and gluten-free menus, complimentary sparkling water, and recipes packed with superfoods, not sodium. Even the space is WELL-certified, signifying that requirements in a host of areas from air quality to lighting have been met.

See also: Behind the Scenes at LYFE Kitchen

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Review: Mayan Manjar Yucateco Is a Knockout

Danielle Lirette
The chicken panuchos hide a surprise layer of black beans. Check out more photos from Mayan Manjar Yucateco's menu.

Mayan Manjar Yucateco
5209 West Mississippi Avenue, Lakewood

The TV was on when I walked into Mayan Manjar Yucateco, a tiny restaurant that opened last spring in the former home of Maria Empanada. But all my attention was on the menu as I tried to decide if I wanted tamales, empanadas or the Yucatecan specialty called panuchos for lunch.

See also: A Closer Look at Mayan Manjar Yucateco

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Review: To the Wind Bistro Is a Breath of Fresh Air on East Colfax

Danielle Lirette
To the Wind Bistro coaxes escargots out of their shells.
To the Wind Bistro
3333 East Colfax Avenue

Professional kitchens are not nice places. Creative, explosive, energetic, yes. Nice? No. You know this if you've worked in one, or if you've read any of the rant-filled memoirs by people who have. In the latest offering in this genre, Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line, Michael Gibney churns out this characterization of the common chef: "His temper is incendiary. Allowing something imperfect to reach his hands might set him off, and the shrapnel hits everybody when he blows."

But at To the Wind Bistro, a tiny spot that opened on East Colfax Avenue this spring, the only thing blowing is, literally, the wind, which has a way of sweeping through the place when diners duck in to avoid the stray evening storm. Here there's no shrapnel, no temper. Truth be told, there's not even a sous-chef. There are only two people in the kitchen, and if they talk to each other like they actually like each other, it's because they do.

See also: A Closer Look at To The Wind Bistro

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Review: Is The Kitchen Next Door Glendale the Next Big Thing?

Danielle Lirette
Sliders are some of the pub grub at The Kitchen Next Door Glendale.
The Kitchen Next Door Glendale
658 South Colorado Boulevard Boulevard

You know how forty is the new thirty, and green is the new black? In restaurant terms,
The Kitchen Next Door
is the new TGI Fridays.

If that sounds like a slur rather than a compliment, you're too young to remember the global chain in its early days, before endless $10 apps and outposts from Seoul to Sri Lanka. Describing what Fridays meant to the restaurant industry in 1973, a writer for Newsweek captured the phenomenon with this: "Police had to ring Friday's (as it quickly became known) with barricades to handle the nightly hordes of young singles. Hundreds of blatantly imitative emporiums soon opened their doors in scores of major cities -- and an industry was born."

See also: Behind the Scenes at The Kitchen Next Door Glendale

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Review: Guard and Grace looks lovely, but faces some hard realities

Danielle Lirette
Modern steak at modern steakhouse Guard and Grace
Guard and Grace
1801 California Street

I knew I'd need a steak knife for dinner at Guard and Grace, the steakhouse that Troy Guard opened in March in the bottom of 1801 California Street, a newly renovated 54-story building downtown. I just didn't know it would be for dessert.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Guard and Grace

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Review: Gozo is a real hot spot -- in more ways than one

Danielle Lirette
The skin-on sea bass is one of many tempting entrees on offer. Browse more favorites from Gozo's menu.
30 South Broadway

Denver's restaurant scene is flourishing, which means two things: It's harder than ever to decide where to eat, and just as hard to know what your money will buy once you get there.

For a recent review meal at Chai & Chai, the no-frills Indian-Arabian restaurant in Aurora, I waded through dirty dishes to find a seat, quaffed lukewarm water from a plastic bottle, and filled up on rice because there wasn't much meat on my lamb mansaf. A month later, I walked into Gozo, an Italian/Spanish-inspired eatery that opened on South Broadway in March, without a reservation and was shown to the chef's counter by the wood-burning oven. For just a dollar more than I'd paid for that rice-mounded mansaf ($21 instead of $19.95), I received a plate of fish so spot-on in concept and execution, it could've been part of a cooking-school demo.

See also: Behind the Scenes at Gozo

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Review: El Chingon's chiles rellenos have a soft landing on Tennyson Street

Danielle Lirette
The new patio at El Chingon.
El Chingon
4326 Tennyson Street

If you've been in Denver for any length of time -- say, longer than a layover at DIA -- you're aware that we take green chile seriously here. So seriously, in fact, that it's earned a spot on the list of topics to avoid at family gatherings, along with pot, politics and when you're going to produce that first grandchild. If you like a goopy, flour-thickened smother and whoever is running the show (mom, dad, uncle, whomever) falls on the side of straight-up tomatillos and chiles, you'd better keep your mouth shut or risk no seconds on dessert.

Green chile isn't the only food that sparks fightin' words in this city. Pizza, burgers and edibles have no shortage of supporters on both sides of the fence. Now El Chingon, a family-run Mexican restaurant that relocated to Berkeley from Arvada last year, is doing its best to add another to the list: chiles rellenos.

See also: A Closer Look at El Chingon

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