On Thursday Denver gets a new restaurant that will be a game-changer for East Colfax and its surrounding neighborhoods. Q House is the first solo project by chef Christopher Lin. Before it he trained for four years with David Chang’s Momofuku group in New York, ending there as a sous chef at Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Now he’s teamed up with two restaurant and bar pros to bring modern Chinese food and cocktails to a stretch in Denver with nothing else quite like it.
“I don’t really have the ego to open a restaurant in New York,” Lin said from inside Q House ahead of its opening. “I just want to have my own place.” Together with co-owners Jon Pinto and Jen Mattioni, he has created a slick and laid-back restaurant in this redeveloped stretch at Colfax and Cook Street. There’s room for 75 patrons across the inside dining room and outdoor patio — a six-seat chef’s counter and a similarly cozy bar will likely be coveted spots on a busy night at the neighboring music venues.
Between Lin, Pinto, and Mattioni, this trio of new owners have worked in Denver restaurants from Old Major to Leña, Candela, and Mezcal. At Q House, they’re combining strong bar and food programs with a history in hospitality. They’ve even placed their three respective “lucky cats” above the bar, presiding over the restaurant.
“Q House is an homage to the cultures and foods of Taiwan and also to the heritage of how we all grew up eating Chinese food,” Pinto says. He and Lin are longtime friends who moved to New York early in their careers to work in restaurants. Years ago they scoped out Denver for their own business venture and met Mattioni while cutting their teeth here in the local industry.
“As much over-saturation as there is, we felt it wasn’t so prevalent in this neighborhood,” Mattioni says of the new location. For Q House’s bar, she has created an addictive old fashioned with a five-spice and red chile powder turbinado. The easy-drinking house spritz is a mix of Chareau aloe liqueur, ginger green tea, and lemon.
Lin’s food menu combines a childhood spent in restaurants (his Taiwanese parents owned one called Szechuan House in Manchester, New Hampshire); kitchen training at the Culinary Institute of America; and four years of practice with one of the country’s most cutting-edge restaurant groups. “These are Chinese recipes and ideas served in a modern Western style,” he says of Q House’s dishes, adding, “you don’t have to have a bowl of white rice to eat this food.”
The food is a progression of precise spices and playful textures — nothing drowning in sauce and no “boring” rice used as a filler. In one salad, chewy strips of pigs ears are served with sliced snow peas and pickled radish. For mussels, Lin makes a black bean sauce and provides crispy french fries on the side for dipping. He does offer two fried rice options on the menu, but they’re made with either smoked trout and bacon or pork and its braising jus — a dish he says is straight from his childhood. Desserts, like the almond tapioca, are a balance of cream and crunch, in a combination that’s best described using the restaurant’s namesake: the Taiwanese “Q.” It translates to “chewy” and sometimes to “cute,” and as a hybrid of American and Chinese cultures, to have it is most certainly a good thing.
Status: Starting Thursday, May 3, Q House opens from 4 p.m. until close Tuesday-Sunday and is closed Mondays. The restaurant will stay open earlier or later depending on the neighborhood’s needs. Check out its website for reservations and more information.
- Q House to Offer Modern Spin on Chinese Food on East Colfax [EDEN]
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