Back in June, when our critic Scott Mowbray did an exhaustive sweep of the Mile High City’s food halls, he concluded his review with one wish: “Having stuffed myself silly at Denver food halls, I still longed for the obsessive quality of Singapore’s best hawker centers and briefly contemplated an antipodean journey. Short of that, a few of our best chefs could turn these neighborhood assets into full-on destinations.”
One of the chefs he hoped would enter the food hall game was Lon Symensma, well known in Denver for his upscale southeast Asian restaurant ChoLon, as well as the more casual Cho77 (and, as of last May, the posh, non-Asian Concourse Restaurant Moderne in Stapleton). Tomorrow, Mowbray’s wish is one step closer to being granted, as Symensma opens Kaya Kitchen in LoHi’s Avanti Food & Beverage.
Symensma’s new quick-service concept, which replaces Souk Shawarma on Avanti’s second story, is like a simplified, more traditional version of ChoLon and Cho77. Take the namesake Kaya toast. The dish has long been a staple on ChoLon’s menu, where the griddled, sweet-coconut-jam-slathered bread is served with an “egg cloud” made through a complicated process involving both sous vide and aeration via nitrous charge. Not so at Avanti. There, toasted Grateful Bread sandwiches filled with the coconut jam are plated with a packet of soy sauce and a small ramekin holding two wobbly poached eggs. Pour the soy (the whole packet!) into the egg, use the edge of a sandwich to break up the yolks and mix it all together, and take a big bite—you’ll find that this more-straightforward version of the sweet-savory Singaporean dish is just as delicious as ChoLon’s.
Unsurprisingly, the “bbq roast pork banh mi” is also a win—especially when you opt for the $3 “French dip” upgrade so that you can plunge the stacked Vietnamese sandwich into Kaya Kitchen’s beefy, anise-scented pho broth.
Bonus: Did you know Avanti’s bar team offers pro beverage pairings for just about any dish from the food hall’s seven concepts? For example, beverage director Jason Snopkoski matches Kaya Kitchen’s beef pho with a balanced American ale from Ratio Beerworks and the refreshing Thai green papaya salad with a crisp Argentine Torrontes/Riesling blend.
Avanti Food & Beverage, 3200 N. Pecos St., 720-269-4778