January 3 2006, 10:00 PM
The king is dead...In the early hours of 2006, Mao Asian Bistro and Sushi Lounge (201 Columbine St.) closed its doors. For all the hoopla the once hipper-than-thou hotspot stirred up during its 2 year runthe least of which being the controversial name and decor that glorified Mao, the infamous Chinese dictatorthe restaurant closed quietly and suddenly. "How many restaurants can say they did 200 dinners the night they closed?" asked Leigh Sullivan, marketing director for Sullivan Restaurant Group. "But then, it was New Year's Eve and Mao had become a special-occasion restaurant." We can't say we're surprised about the closing. Service and food have been inconsistent since the beginning and as of late service has slipped into utter nonchalance. Perhaps the handwriting was on the wall for Mao when restaurateur Jim Sullivan announced additional locations for his other restaurants, Nine75 and Emogene. But Sullivan is ready to give the Cherry Creek dining scene another try: Come mid-February, Mao's space will become Ocean, a casual seafood and steak restaurant. "Ocean will appeal to people who want to eat, rather than dine," says Sullivan. "We'll price the menu well, and offer exciting food that won't be foodie food." New kid on the block...Cafe Mondo, wrapped in windows and decorated in an Ikea-esque style, opened in East Highland the Wednesday before Christmas. Brought to us by Todd and Laura Zaspel from Serendipity Catering, and Ellen Quinn Kratzer (wife of Duey Kratzer, who owns Highland's Mondo Vino), the cafe which now serves breakfast, coffee, and sandwiches, will morph into a wine bar upon securing a liquor license. The trio is filing paperwork but say they hope to be serving glasses of port alongside slices of cheesecake, mimosas at Sunday brunch, and a bevy of fabulous wines by March. In the meantime, we recommend The Duey sandwich: quarter-inch rounds of dry salami and hunks of Irish cheddar stuffed between baguette slices with Dijon mustard on the side. 3301 Tejon St., 303-433-4626. New Year's Resolution...We've said it before but this time we mean it: We're going to eat better in the New Year. And Samurai Sushi fits right into that equation. Monday through Friday, the Greenwood Village restaurant offers a lunch special including five pieces of buttery nigiri, a handroll (tuna or spicy tuna), a huge bowl of miso soup garnished with mushroom slices, and a fresh salad dressed with a delicious miso-based vinaigrette. The cost: Just $9.50, which has us checking off Resolution No. 2: Be a little wiser with our money. 9625 E. Arapahoe Road, Greenwood Village, 303-799-9991.