Though I still drive to Boulder for Zoe Ma Ma's Chinese food, I've also discovered Tao Tao Noodle Bar, a seven-month-old Aurora restaurant opened by David Lee and Mei Sung (of the now-defunct Chopsticks China Bistro).
The menu of traditional eats offers everything from the familiar (dim sum, beef noodle soup) to the adventurous (jellyfish, intestines). As my friend and I looked over the menu, the scent of ginger and soy lingered in the air and a heavy black pot, sizzling and almost boiling over, was delivered to a neighboring table. When we learned it was the seafood hot pot, we ordered it on the spot.
When ours arrived, we found a stew of shrimp, whitefish, squid, and thick rectangles of deep-fried tofu combined with bok choy, whole garlic cloves, and Chinese black mushrooms. Everything is cooked together with a gravy-like brown sauce made of soy, oyster sauce, and sugar. The result is a warm-you-from-the-inside, rich dish that's perfect for sharing—but you won't want to.
To start: Order the five-spice squid. The massive bowl (enough for a table of four) is filled with tender squid tossed with a sweet, neon-red sauce of ketchup, vinegar, onion, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil. The surprisingly light, bite-size pieces are tender with just a slight kick.
10400 E. Sixth Ave., Aurora, 303-366-1761