La Sandía: Updating the Chile Relleno

August 2012

I gave up on chile rellenos a long time ago because—no matter where I dined—they suffered from a tired sameness: poblano peppers, stuffed with cheese, battered with egg, and fried. In a word: boring.

Richard Sandoval, chef-owner of La Sandía (as well as a long list of Latin-fusion restaurants including Denver's brand-new Al Lado tapas and wine bar), must have felt the same way. Now through the end of the month, La Sandía's two locations are hosting a chili relleno festival that showcases the stuffed pepper's versatility.

The specials include creative constructions such as pasillo chiles stuffed with chorizo, bacon, pork, and mashed plantains; poblano peppers loaded with shrimp, calamari, scallops, gouda, and cilantro; a veggie version that plays home to mushrooms, chayote, onions, corn, and cheese; and the elegant Chile En Nogada Relleno. In this impressive dish (pictured) a poblano is stuffed with ground veal, tomatoes, and crunchy almonds folded with a creamy cinnamon-walnut sauce. This ensemble is then set atop a tart-sweet pomegranate sauce that offsets the richness of the filling. The combination of aromatic cinnamon, rich veal, and bright crimson makes this item the kind of thing you'd expect to find during a holiday meal, not a casual night out at Northfield-Stapleton.

Tip: If you can't decide between the four varieties, try the mini-rellento tasting.

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