January 31 2006, 10:00 PM
Shape shifters...Last year Sushi Den expanded its dining rooms and removed the back bar to alleviate absurdly long waits (good move). The South Pearl Street hotspot is again reconfiguring space, this time for a small, seven-person private room where no menu will be posted. Instead, Chef Toshi Kizaki will serve diners Omakase-style. "Omakase means 'leave the matter to the person they trust,'" says owner Yasu Kizaki. "You find this type of restaurant in Japan where regular customers totally trust the chef. They ask the chef to create whatever the he thinks is the best that day." Don't look for a set cost (the quality of ingredients will determine price) but we'd expect it to be, ahem, expensive. The reservations-only Omakase room should open in a couple weeksinitially Toshi will serve his creations just two nights a week. But diner demand could change that. 1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0826, www.sushiden.net. Keep on rolling...For food lovers, it was Johnson's Corner's gi-normous cinnamon rolls that put the Johnstown truck stop on the map. Many had already discovered the roadside restaurant on their own, but in 1998 Travel & Leisure magazine named the place one of the world's best breakfast spots and the secret was out. But now those legendary pastry swirls, and the 52-year-old business as a whole, are in danger of disappearing if the Colorado Department of Transportation decides after a $15 million, multiyear study to close Exit 254 on northbound I-25. "It's well documented in federal studies that businesses do not flourish along interstates outside of a quarter mile off an interchange. [If 254 were to close] we'd be a mile to the closest interchange," says Chauncey Taylor, owner of the newly renovated Johnson's Corner and stepson of founder Joe Johnson. Learn more about the possible closure of Exit 254 on Johnson's Corner's website, stop in and a sign the petition (they already have 11,000 signatures), or mail Taylor a letter expressing why keeping the exit open is important to you. "Pile it on. I'm hoping for hundreds of thousands of signatures and thousands of lettersthen I'm going to plop it on their [CDOT's] desk and say 'This is what the people say.'" 2842 S.E. Frontage Road, 970-667-2069, www.johnsonscorner.com. By the bottle...Stopping off at Highland's Mondo Vino over the weekend we stumbled upon a new finda tasting bar a la Sideways at the back of the shop. The bar is in response to a newly amended law permitting liquor stores to hold tastings so customers can sample the wares. How very smart. We bellied up and sniffed, swirled, and sipped on three bold reds and a crisp white. In between swills, we cleansed our palate on cubes of cheese and crusty bread from St. Killian's Cheese Shop next door and skimmed a sheet of paper detailing the featured wines. We liked what we tasted and bought a couple bottles of the Remelluri and then walked next door for a hunk of Old Amsterdam Gouda. Get in on a Mondo wine tasting yourself every Friday and Saturday from 2 to 7 p.m. 3601 W. 32nd Ave., 303-458-3858.