After countless lunches and dinners, tens of thousands of calories, and hours of careful deliberation and debate, our fourth annual ranking of the Denver area’s best restaurants is complete. Dig in for a comprehensive, of-the-moment snapshot of the local dining scene.
5 Bittersweet (last year 11)
A year ago, chef Olav Peterson seemed to suffer from ingredient overload; at times his stunning presentations teetered on flavor imbalance from too many elements. This year, however, Peterson has reverted back to the simplicity that has always been his strength. Dishes such as the duck breast arrive crowned with coins of watermelon radish (sliced just thickly enough to impart delicate crunch) and cherries, which are halved and served in a sauce thickened with the meat’s jus. In a halibut dish, the fish’s delicate sweetness remains the focal point even against plush Meyer lemon gnocchi, brown butter, and a burst of red grapes. Peterson is justifiably proud of where Bittersweet sits today, two and a half years into its run. He credits his staff—many of whom have joined since January—for demanding excellence. One of those new additions is pastry chef Kris Padalino, whose exacting talent (order the terrariumlike dessert Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) has elevated a dessert program that was already one of the best in the city. 500 E. Alameda Ave., 303-942-0320, bittersweetdenver.com