By Carol Maybach
(out of 4 stars)
975 Lincoln Ave., Suite K, 303-975-0975
Hip and sophisticated flavors but good for the kids, too.
Gimmicky items such as cocktails rimmed in Ovaltine and Tang and the “miso ‘excited about this’ black cod” dish.
Retro desserts, miniature lobster tacos, hamachi-avocado-citrus soy from the raw bar, Kobe beef sliders.
Grilled watermelon with goat cheese and yuzu; tomato, mozzarella, and spinach salad; open-face grilled cheese sandwich with tomato.
Nine75 is a restaurant designed to keep you off-kilter. The location: ground floor of the swanky Beauvallon, wedged between slightly gritty Lincoln Avenue and Broadway. The decor: a puzzling blend of urbane and whimsical. The menu: mystifying pairings that work. There’s no margin for error here—without an airtight menu to kick the play-of-opposites idea home, Nine75 would fall flat on its face. But it doesn’t—thanks to chef/partner Troy Guard.
Guard’s vast experience as a chef gives him the finesse to pull off the concept. Some of the best fusion masters in the world, namely chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Richard Sandoval, helped guide Guard’s solid culinary foundation. He developed pan-Pacific and Hawaiian fusion skills under Yamaguchi while cooking in both Asia and Hawaii. And a serendipitous kitchen stint in the Raffles Hotel in Singapore introduced him to Sandoval, then a guest chef. Sandoval recognized. Guard’s talent and brought him to Denver to fill in as top chef at Tamayo, and eventually to head up the culinary team at Zengo. Under Sandoval, Guard cultivated and polished the Latin-Asian fusion techniques that made Zengo a hit in the restaurant’s early days. Guard credits living in San Diego, Asia, Hawaii, and the continental United States as his greatest tool to understanding and appreciating the regional products that he now fuses across cultures with ease. And so, all the comforts of Latin American, Asian, and American cuisines come together on Nine75’s menu.
2. Back for more...at Tamayo
By Kazia Jankowski
(out of 4 stars)
1400 Larimer St., 720-946-1433
Must-Try New Dishes
Tacos de camarón, pechuga pibil en barro
Pipian de puerco, crepas de cajeta
When Tamayo opened five years ago in Larimer Square, it was a novelty. Denver wasn’t used to Mexican dumplings filled with a pungent corn fungus called huitlacoche, or chile rellenos stuffed with manchego cheese. But diners delighted in the new flavors, and 5280 food critic Lori Midson peppered her three-and-a-half-star review with “terrific” and “wonderful.” Five years later, the restaurant is celebrating its half-decade anniversary with a face-lift: a new menu and subtly remodeled dining room.
One bite into Tamayo’s mole (pronounced moh-lay), a ruddy, earthy sauce made of ground chiles and chocolate, and I’m struck by the depth and sophistication of classic Mexican cuisine. The sauce dates back to the 1600s and yet, here on the bustling patio, it feels right at home on the modern Mexican menu. The creative hands of chef and owner Richard Sandoval have made mole poblano, a holdover from Tamayo’s original menu, totally chic. The sauce covers a chicken breast and fresh cilantro rice, and is paired with caramelized plantains. And, as with subsequent dishes, I can taste the rich history of Mexican cooking—not the pedestrian flavors of tacos and burritos, but the robust cooking of home kitchens.
In this same vein of flavors is the new menu’s pechuga pibil en barro ($20): grilled chicken served in a deep ceramic pot and smothered with an achiote habanero sauce. My Mexican friend Arturo had described the classic Yucatan dish as a traditional pork chop basted with tomato-paste-like sauce, so it was with surprise that I dipped a homemade tortilla into the mix and tasted dense roasted chiles laced with mildly sour pickled red onions and fresh corn pico de gallo.