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Sure, there are many times and places for traditional Asian flavors, but when you’re craving something provocative, it’s time for fusion. In culinary terms, fusion incorporates two or more cultural cuisines to create a single dish, often drawing from unexpected elements—renegade ingredients and/or techniques—to take the meal to a whole new place. Think: Korean barbecue tacos or French onion soup dumplings.
Alysia Davey—who co-owns Englewood’s Zomo with husband Ryan Anderson—wanted to open a restaurant showcasing her Vietnamese grandmother’s cooking, but because her grandma immigrated to America, her food reflects both cultures. “Fusion to us is my grandma’s immigration story,” Davey says. “How she came here [to the U.S.] and she only had the ingredients she could find. That’s what created fusion for her. It’s grandmas making your food in our kitchen—they’re just making it with ingredients they can find here.”
We love blending, connecting, and experimenting with food, so here are some of our favorite fusion restaurants, listed in alphabetical order. Because sometimes you just need Ssamjang-braised short ribs in your tacos.
Editor’s Note: This is a living list of the best Asian fusion restaurants that was last updated on March 1, 2022. Did we miss your favorite? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Uptown’s Ace is all about fun—it’s a ping-pong restaurant after all—and that fun extends to chef Thach Tran’s fusion-filled menu spanning Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, and Japanese flavors.
Eat this: Besides Tran’s savory dishes like khao soi ramen with coconut curry broth and Bang Bang Bao with Thai chili and basil, pastry chef Michael Kurowski’s desserts also blend cultures in tasty ways. Take home the sticky toffee pudding that features spicy ginger, a sesame lace cookie, and tahini toffee caramel, or the warm bao doughnuts served with cool lime anglaise. 501 E. 17th Ave., 303-800-7705
Chef Blaine Baggao cooks dishes influenced by his Filipino grandmother’s kitchen, the food his American mother prepared for him as a child, and upbringing in Roswell, New Mexico. After starting as a food truck, Baggao debuted outposts in RiNo (at First Draft Taproom & Kitchen )and on North Federal Boulevard in West Highland and also serves at MeowWolf’s Hellofood Cafe & Bar.
Eat this: The Filipino chicken adobo—crowned with green chile, pineapple, doboyaki sauce, annatto (a peppery, sweet condiment), green onion, and a hard-boiled egg—is a symphony of flavors and textures. Also don’t miss the lumpia and sopapillas with ube ice cream. 1309 26th St., 720-520-7869; 3109 N. Federal Blvd.; 1338 1st. St.
There’s a lot of energy (and Philly cheesesteak dumplings) inside Bao’s electric downtown taproom, but for a more polished experience, head upstairs to the elegant tearoom, where you’ll find refined fusion eats and drinks.
Eat and Drink this: The Kobe beef short rib dumplings with miso Mongolian sauce are a must-have. The east-meets-west cocktails are also killer, like the Frozen in Thyme, a shaken mix of white tea, coconut rum, vodka, thyme, and lemon, and the Chasing the Sun, a blend of baiju, desert rose tea, banana liqueur, and lime. 1317 14th St., 720-324-8675
You may have slurped down your fair share of ChoLon’s famous French onion soup dumplings, but the restaurant’s menu merges Asian ingredients and techniques in many more delicious dishes that are worth exploring.
Eat this: Try the exquisite butternut squash crystal dumplings with truffle emulsion, or the salmon crudo with smashed avocado and wasabi crunch. If you’re craving even more dumplings, head next door to YumCha, where dim sum chef Michelle Xiao also works her wrapping wizardry. Bonus: ChoLon is also opening an outpost at Denver International Airport so you can soon get your dumpling fix before you fly. ChoLon (1555 Blake St., #101 and 10195 E. 29th Dr., #140, Central Park; Yumcha, 1520 16th St. Mall)
This food truck-turned-brick-and-mortar is dedicated to Latin-Asian fusion, which means you can stuff your Monterey Jack quesadilla with char siu pork or Korean barbecue shrimp.
Eat this: Instead of the usual carnitas and barbacoa, Chuey Fu’s taco and burrito menu kicks up the excitement with fillings like Korean beef with chipotle sauce and pickled red onion, or ancho chile chicken with sesame peanut sauce. 1131 Santa Fe Dr., 303-484-1681
Asian street food with an upscale twist is the draw at Ginger Pig in Sunnyside. As an exchange student in Beijing, chef Natascha Hess fell in love with Chinese cuisine and traveled across Asia to immerse herself in the culinary traditions of countries like Thailand, Japan, and Singapore—experiences diners can taste in her inventive plates.
Eat this: The Korean Cornflake Dog—an all-beef jumbo frank snuggled in handmade yeasted dough and rolled in cornflakes—is an audibly crunchy, crave-worthy delight on a stick. It comes coated in swirls of ketchup and mustard and sprinkled with scallions and sesame seeds. 4262 Lowell Blvd., 720-324-8416
There are no rules when you build a restaurant inside a former mortuary in LoHi, so Linger’s menu crisscrosses the globe, sampling from and combining unexpected flavors along the way.
Eat this: Korean chicken bao buns with kimchee and pickled Fresno chiles; spicy pork pot stickers with sambal and lemongrass; and Korean barbecue tacos with Ssamjang-braised short ribs. 2030 W. 30th Ave., 303-993-3120
By melding flavors, ingredients, and techniques inspired by street foods around the world, chef Merlin Vernier creates a playful menu of comforting casual fare at Street Feud. The culinary pro, who honed his skills at Michelin-starred restaurants and as the chef for Chicago’s Lollapalooza, debuted Street Feud’s first brick-and-mortar this past December.
Eat This: Freshly made, flaky flatbread is the canvas for the satisfying falafel wrap, layered with creamy hummus, crispy-fluffy falafel, marinated tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, quinoa tabbouleh, tahini, and a medley of mint, parsley, and cilantro. 5410 E. Colfax Ave., 303-388-3383
Inspired by Davey’s Vietnamese grandparents and Anderson’s Chinese grandparents, Zomo’s menu is an ode to their respective migrant stories. Borrowing from both their home countries and what they discovered here in the United States, the fusion dishes are uniquely Asian and American.
Eat this: Grandma Chi’s meatloaf is the first dish Davey’s grandma learned to cook in an American refugee camp. She thought our traditional breadcrumbs would dry the meatloaf out, so she instead flecked it with noodles to keep it moist. (Grandma Chi was right.) Also try her banh mi burger, a hoisin-spiked beef patty topped with pate and pickled veggies. 3457 S. Broadway, Englewood, 720-739-8882