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2015: The Year of Asian Cuisine in Denver

Ramen, sushi, Southeast Asian, modern Chinese: If it's Asian cuisine, Denver pushed it in 2015.

Hop Alley
Hop Alley
Adam Larkey
A great number of openings dominated Denver in the last twelve months with one thread really standing out: The emergence of contemporary Asian-inspired restaurants. A variety of cuisines, once relegated to ethnic eateries on South Federal and in Aurora took off in the Mile High City and the trend is still growing.

Cho77 launched twelve months ago on Broadway and won the hearts of diners, critics, and restaurant community alike. This more casual sibling of ChoLon is focused on the flavors of Southeast Asia. Chef and owner Lon Symensma along with chef de cuisine Ryan Gorby serve irresistible dishes like the Burmese pork curry with butternut squash, peanuts, and candied orange and the Vietnamese phở, served with traditional garnishes and shaved Colorado Wagyu beef.

Much anticipated, Osaka Ramen brought not one but two locations in 2015, one in River North and another one in Cherry Creek. Brainchild of chef Jeff Osaka, this ramen eatery offers killer tonkotsu and must-have chicken karaage. On the ramen front, notable additions to Denver's scene include Aurora's hyper popular Katsu Ramen and South Broadway spot Miyako.

The experienced and highly respected team behind Sushi Den and Izakaya Den relaunched Ototo, after a four year absence. The small corner restaurant returned  with an upgraded interior and a new format that gives guests access to a signature raw bar and sashimi, but also emphasizes small plates cooked on a robata grill with bincho-tan charcoal.

While only days old, Sushi Rama is shaking up the perception of fussy sushi and bringing back an oldy but a goody: The conveyor belt. Located in RiNo, the colorful spot owned in part by chef Jeff Osaka and led by chef Jesus Silva is centered around Kaiten, a visually pleasing system that literally keeps the sushi flowing.

One of the most recent openings and likely Denver's best new restaurant is Hop Alley, a modern Chinese spot helmed by Tommy Lee of Uncle. Every detail of the small RiNo eatery is thoughtful and heartfelt from the decor, which incorporates imported Chinese red lamps, to the innovative takes on dishes like the Shanghai rice cakes, to the sharply executed cocktails.

What else happened on the Asian cuisine front? Kobe An Shabu Shabu opened a second location in Cherry Creek, New Saigon was returned to its original owners, and Komotodo, a quirky sushi burrito eatery launched in LoDo.