A longtime Aspen restaurant has moved into the Denver Place Building, bringing with it Oaxacan specialties from moles to rellenos, all centered around this Mexican region’s native chile pepper.
At the restaurant Zocalito, chef and owner Michael Beary imports a handful of rare chile varieties directly from southern Mexico and prepares them in a way that spotlights each pepper individually, whether an earthy negro chilhuacle or an Encino wood-smoked mountain pasilla.
“I got sick and tired of cooking French food, started traveling the world, and fell in love with the food of Oaxaca,” the classically trained Beary said of his current focus. And it’s an intense one. He travels to Oaxaca frequently, he has worked with farmers there for more than a decade to keep the local chile business thriving, he studies the history and composition of the peppers, and he’s one of their only U.S. importers.
As a result, the dishes that most highlight chiles on Zocalito’s menu are the main reasons to visit this new restaurant. Dry-rubbed chicken wings, skirt steak in mole negro, and hoja santa stuffed with mozzarella and chorizo are a few tasty options. There are chiles to be enjoyed too in the salsas, the soup broths, and along the rims of some mezcal and tequila-based beverages.
An important final note: These are not the types of chile that will burn your face off, according to Beary. But anyone interested in some complex and nuanced new flavors will leave Zocalito with an education.
Status: Zocalito Latin Bistro is now open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday at the corner of 18th and Champa streets. More information is on the website.