For the first time ever, we rank the top 25 restaurants in the region. Plus: Denver's best chefs and dining trends.
Each year we, as diners, are influenced by the chefs whose restaurants we frequent. It's through their dishes that we broaden our culinary horizons, experience the trends, and rediscover the pleasure that can come from a perfect bite. We commend the chefs below for the excitement they've brought to the Denver-Boulder scene.
Chef of the Year
Toshi Kizaki, Sushi Den, Izakaya Den, Den Deli
Over the past 20 years, Toshi Kizaki has proven to skeptics that ocean-fresh fish can—and does—exist in landlocked Colorado. With prudent sourcing and a brother who works Japan's largest fish market, Sushi Den's seafood sees only 24 hours between being caught and landing on a plate. Kizaki's unprecedented Japanese cuisine has such a following that, two years ago, he opened Izakaya Den across the street to help feed demand. The menu offers sushi along with a creative Japanese tapas-style menu (grilled panzanella salad, hoisin duck tostada) that further demonstrates Kizaki's depth as a chef. And in November of last year, Kizaki added a third Platt Park spot, Den Deli, that functions as a Japanese-style deli, seafood market, and noodle bar. His dedication to authenticity is relentless—he even refused to serve ramen at Den Deli until the flavor profiles met his strict expectations. Excellence is difficult to achieve in even one restaurant; Kizaki manages near perfection in three.
James Rugile, Venue
When James Rugile took the executive chef position at Venue 18 months ago, few had ever heard of him. Now this 25-year-old, who honed his skills at Black Pearl and Vesta Dipping Grill, has exploded onto the Denver dining scene. He's a bold-faced name in the newspaper; he's spearheaded the Highlands' Chef Collaborative (a small group of like-minded neighborhood chefs); and he's always dining out (everywhere from Olivéa to Frasca) and surveying the competition. We appreciate Rugile's depth of natural talent, his dedication to simple and seasonal eats, and his insatiable drive to better both his restaurant and the greater dining community.
Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, Duo and Olivéa
Anyone who has ordered dessert at Duo or Olivéa already knows the power that pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom wields. Her sweets succeed in the balance of texture and flavor—never will you experience a cloying or jaded bite. Instead, her carefully crafted desserts strike an equilibrium of sweet, savory, and salty in every single bite. For proof, order any dessert featuring a heavenly semifreddo.