Eat & Drink

The Occidental Tourist

The insider’s guide to Ace Eat Serve in Uptown.
April 25 2013, 1:49 PM

The Draw
An energetic Uptown restaurant/bar/ping-pong palace perfect for groups seeking an inexpensive and entertaining night out.

The Drawback
Some of the dishes lack balance (oversalted, underseasoned), and getting a table (both for dining and pong) on busy nights requires patience.

Don’t Miss
Lo Pan’s Ruin and Mission Orange cocktails, spicy pork ramen, crispy beef, Chinese pork spareribs, short rib bao bun

$ (Average price per entrée: $10)


Welcome to Ace Eat Serve. Thank you for joining us on tonight’s tour of this bustling Uptown restaurant. Before we get started, how many of you have heard of Ace? Most of you?! Well, I’m not surprised. Denver’s first Pan-Asian ping-pong bar and restaurant has been getting a lot of buzz.

Some background: Ace is the latest creation by the team that brought you Steuben’s (next door) and Vesta Dipping Grill downtown. As you’ll see, Ace offers the same sense of playfulness as those other restaurants, the same nothing-quite-like-it energy.

Let’s step inside. Huge, isn’t it? High ceilings. Big windows. Open rooms. Massive patio. Yes, Ace is friendly and inviting. Notice the kitschy-cool decor—the neon Cut Rate Liquors sign on the wall; the shipping container under the chef’s counter; the old Mission Orange soda dispenser on the bar top. After we’re done, you’ll want to try one of Ace’s Mission Orange highballs, made with bubbly soda from that machine, Angostura bitters, and the Korean spirit known as soju.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of soju? There are many spirits on Ace’s menu you may not recognize, including Mekhong, a whiskey/rum crossover from Thailand; Yamazaki, a 12-year whiskey from Japan; and an impressive lineup of sakes and Asian beer. Just sitting and sipping in the bar will give you a good sense of Ace’s intent: to introduce diners to Asian flavors they might not be familiar with, while also making sure they have an all-American good time.

Let’s move to the ping-pong room—kind of looks like an urban rec center, doesn’t it? Many guests have wondered, “Why ping-pong?” You could make the argument that table tennis, being immensely popular in China, fits Ace’s Asian theme. But the real reason the owners chose the concept is they wanted to capitalize on the pong trend, which is big in cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

OK, now: I suspect you’ve stopped in here for food as well, so let’s step into the main dining room. Brandon Biederman is the executive chef, and he’s put together a menu consisting of a wide assortment of Asian dishes. Noodles from Japan. Dim sum from China. Soups from Thailand. Many items on the menu may look familiar, but don’t expect the same shumai or red curry you find at your favorite strip-mall ethnic spot. As Biederman says, “To do something truly authentic would be a stretch. I mean, I’m not from Asia. I’m from the south side of Chicago.”

What Biederman has done is taken a sampling of the Asian dishes he and his team members liked most, stateside and internationally, and put them together in a way that allows you to be as routine—or adventurous—as you want to be. On the more familiar side are noodle bowls like the spicy pork ramen, a soupy blend of ground pork, wheat ramen, crunchy baby corn, and hot red chiles. The soup base, made with meat stock, tamari, and dried Thai bird chiles, is so well balanced you’d be hard-pressed to find a more comforting comfort food.