It was the honest simplicity of Spain’s tapas bars and Italy’s humble taverns that inspired chef-owner Dakota Soifer to open Café Aion in Boulder. Soifer (who honed his skills at the renowned Zuni Café and Julia’s Kitchen, The Kitchen, and Meadow Lark Farm Dinners) has a long tradition of clean, contemporary cooking that embraces Old World technique and pays tribute to the local farm.

Partnering with a team of veterans from The Kitchen, including sous chef Eric Lee, mixologist Jake Kirkpatrick, and general manager Jason Hein, Café Aion ran the risk of repeating the successful Kitchen experience. Instead, with Soifer’s vision and talent, the concept focuses on the soulful flavors of Mediterranean small plates.

His ever-changing, seasonal menu captures the uniqueness of classic tapas and the time-honored traditions of the Italian merenda, using products from local, organic farms. Expect standouts such as sultry, cumin-laced fried cauliflower with saffron-infused Noosa Yoghurt and lemon; tender hanger steak with a porcini-bread sauce (a holdover from Zuni Café); and exquisite house-cured salami, baccalà, lomo, and pancetta. Pair dinner with boutique Mediterranean wines, but save room for the extra-velvety crème brûlée and sinful truffles.

1235 Pennsylvania Ave., Boulder, 303-993-8131