Best Bites: Cafe Aion's Paella

March 9 2011, 11:30 AM

Every time I dine at Cafe Aion, I leave more convinced that chef-owner Dakota Soifer gets it. Here is a chef who understands the art of keeping things simple. His rustic style shines in various dishes, from the brothy, peasant-like butternut squash soup with wild rice and crunchy almonds to the braised greens with breadcrumb salsa and tiny jewels of pickled shallot.

What's fun about the restaurant is that you can tackle the menu in one of two ways: Clutter the table with a glut of tapas, or treat the small plates like appetizers and choose a platter to share. Over the weekend, we opted for the latter, anchoring our meal with Soifer's paella. The dish—a blend of tomato-bathed saffron rice, house-made linguiça sausage, and mussels—arrived in a blazing-hot paella pan and yielded the telltale socarrat: the caramelized, crispy bottom crust that defines a good paella. The portion is so generous I brought the leftovers home for lunch the next day. 

Tip Check out Aion's Wednesday Paella Night. The contents of the Spanish dish change weekly, and with a bottle of wine the total rings in at $35.

1235 Pennsylvania Ave., Boulder, 303-993-8131