If you’ve ever dined at nine-year-old ChoLon, situated in LoDo at the corner of Blake Street and the 16th Street Mall, you know it’s a glam, buzzy restaurant serving creative Pan-Asian fare from chef-owner Lon Symensma (also of Cho77 and LeRoux) and executive chef Becca Henry. As of two weeks ago, ChoLon is also a glam, buzzy restaurant in Stapleton’s Eastbridge Town Center, which means that if you live north or east of downtown, your commute for Symensma and Henry’s cooking just got a whole lot shorter.
Concourse Restaurant Moderne closed in September to make way for ChoLon 2.0, and the transition feels pretty seamless. The space’s wavy walnut ceiling and plush grey leather banquettes remain, as does the elegant vibe. In a nod to the original location, ChoLon’s signature oval pendant light fixtures punctuate the room, and photographs of southeast Asian street scenes decorate the walls. But the biggest change is visible the moment you walk through the door: The former coffee bar has been transformed into a glass-walled dim sum production area from which you can watch chefs Michelle Xiao and her husband Shao crafting the dumplings that differentiate the Stapleton menu from that of the original.
There will be more dim sim specialties from Michelle as the new ChoLon settles into a groove, but for now, the talented chef, who worked as a dim sum chef at Buddakan in New York City for 13 years, is focusing on a few very special items: the beloved pork belly buns and French onion soup dumplings that ChoLon is known for, as well as new-to-ChoLon Cantonese shrimp dumplings, chicken potstickers, and mac and cheese wontons.
Mac and cheese wontons? Yes, indeed. Intended to lure in Stapleton families, the Xiaos shape wonton wrappers and a decadent pasta filling into little purses, then fry them until crispy. Served with a honey- and sriracha-spiked “Asian ketchup,” they sport a fantastic textural play between the soft, cheesy interior and shattering shell. Our nine-year-old son loved them.
He also demolished the chicken-bok-choy-noodle stir fry he created from the DIY kids’ menu. At the new ChoLon, mini chefs can create their own favorite $8 dinner by choosing rice or noodles; one protein, such as egg, shrimp, or beef; and two veggies (or double the amount of one) from the likes of carrots, long beans, and cabbage. Mac and cheese and chicken nuggets are also available—and the aforementioned wontons, which appear on the regular dinner menu—but it’s thoughtful of ChoLon to give little ones the opportunity to eat something half as interesting as what their parents are consuming.
Xiao’s silky shrimp dumplings were indeed interesting, and delicious, encased in a delicate, chewy, semi-translucent wrapper that barely contained a filling of sweet shrimp, bamboo shoots, and pea tendrils. Also excellent were the spicy chicken potstickers, studded with juicy jicama and Napa cabbage, with burnished bottom edges and fried shallots on top.
Henry is putting her stamp on the new menu, too, with several dishes inspired by her and Symensma’s recent research trip to southeast Asia. A new iteration on Cho77’s wonderful crunchy tofu balls are there, as are fried orbs of crabmeat, like spherical crab cakes, served with a bright pomelo aioli, Henry’s twist on a Singaporean whole-crab feast from the trip. There’s also a refined version of Hainanese chicken and rice served with three dipping sauces.
Lunch and brunch—maybe even a dim sum brunch—lie down the road, but for now, there’s a lot to explore at ChoLon 2.0.
Eastbridge Town Center, 10195 E. 29th Drive, Ste. 140, 720-550-6934. Sunday through Wednesday, 5–9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, 5–10 p.m.