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Over the past year, Departure Denver Restaurant & Lounge, one of 5280’s 25 Best Restaurants, has undergone a number of subtle changes. That hulking, shiny, white airplane tailpiece no longer hangs above the bar. The glass bar top doesn’t glow a bright white. A section in the front of the restaurant has been expanded to accommodate more tables. The overall goal, according to general manager Jason Gordon, was to minimize the focus on the bar and bring more attention to Departure’s fantastic modern Asian culinary program.
To that end, executive chef Khamla Vongsakoun (in collaboration with culinary director Gregory Gourdet and sous chef Taylor Stark) has rolled out a brand new autumn menu. The streamlined offerings are now presented on a single sheet of paper rather than in a leather-bound booklet. New dishes include Colorado lamb chops with eggplant curry and mint-coconut yogurt, Szechuan pork gyoza inspired by the chile-oil-drenched dumplings at Blue Ocean/Little Chengdu, and an already popular fried-chicken-stuffed steamed bun.
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Our favorite dish from a recent tasting, however, was the grilled octopus. The soy-sauce-marinated, caramelized tentacles are cut into meaty coins, served with pickled onions, apples, celery, and shallots, diced roasted apples, micro Thai basil and cilantro, and a smoky apricot barbecue sauce infused with Korean chile flakes and sesame oil. The resulting dish is comforting without being too heavy, and it’s a beautiful plate of food to boot.
While the grilled octopus is only available at dinner, Departure will also have new noodle bowls and excellent banh mi sandwiches available when it resumes weekday lunch service on November 7.
249 Columbine St., 720-772-5020. As of November 7, lunch will run from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.