If you work or live in downtown Denver, you already know that when the craving for dumplings or noodle bowls or other Asian fare strikes, there are only a few non-chain dining options within walking distance. That status quo ended last week, when Cho77, chef Lon Symensma’s casual southeast Asian street food concept (formerly located on South Broadway), re-opened in its new home on the 16th Street Mall near Blake Street.
Symensma and chef Jeff Stoneking have brought a few Cho77 favorites over from the original location—the crunchy tofu balls, crispy chicken wings with Vietnamese caramel, Thai coconut curry—but they’ve also introduced several new items, including a list of dim sum selections. (In addition, the team has expanded Cho77’s hours to include a fast-casual lunchtime service that begins at 11 a.m. and traditional, full-service dinner. There is no breakfast, as originally reported.)
Known for the outrageous French onion soup dumplings at neighboring ChoLon, Symensma and Stoneking have doubled down on dumplings at Cho77, offering four unique versions and a couple of filled buns too: In the “xiao long bao” (soup dumpling) tradition, there’s an excellent Chinese version filled with chicken, ginger, garlic, scallion, sesame oil, and the like, and a bigger, beef-based, Vietnamese pho-inspired dumpling that comes with a straw for slurping up the fragrant, star anise-scented broth from inside the wrapper before biting into the dumpling itself.
Delicate red chile shrimp dumplings (“siu mai”) come topped with crunchy fried shallots and a rich soy-chile-vinegar “gel” (which tastes a lot better than that sounds). Peking duck potstickers are beautifully pan-fried, full of tender meat, and paired with a thick hoisin sauce. If bao are more your thing, there’s a baked version filled with barbecue pork and a fluffy steamed bun filled with burnished slices of lemongrass pork and spicy pickles layered in long, julienned strands.
Cho77 does offer more than just dumplings (although we can’t imagine tiring of that side of the menu), including a salmon poke bowl made extra satisfying with the addition of cool, slippery soba noodles, marinated seaweed, and local Rebel Farms greens. The very spicy, very tasty shrimp vindaloo curry bowl seems made for cold, dreary days, served over steamed rice and bulked up with roasted root veggies like daikon, potatoes, carrots, and pearl onions.
Pastry chef Jesse Howland has contributed a crisp, gluten-free sesame sandwich cookie filled with thick chocolate ganache and a warm, coconut-y kaya bread pudding with an almost savory white pepper caramel. And beverage director Mat Howerton is slinging everything from tamarind mojitos to coconut Thai iced tea.
Looks like LoDo has lucked out.
Cho77 (1555 Blake St., Suite 102; the entrance is on 16th Street) is open Sunday and Monday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday – Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.