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What I like most about Leña is this: The South Broadway Latin restaurant knows when to bend the rules and when not to. Take the house-made blood sausage: Order the item and two links arrive on a cutting board with a side of chimichurri and half a grilled tomato. There’s neither fancy treatment nor plating, just the meat with simple condiments—all meant to be eaten together in each bite.
Chef Toby Prout’s albondigas (pictured), on the other hand, are a little more dressed up. The Spanish-style meatballs, made here with ground duck, are served with a savory duck consommé. The refined dish straddles the line between true albondigas and sopa de albondigas, a traditional meatball soup. Baby carrots give the small plate color and and a crispy chicharrón adds welcome texture.
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Upon ordering the meatballs, our server immediately suggested a side of yuca bread for dipping. I’m glad he did because it would have been a shame to let the beautifully flavored broth go to waste. Plus, it gave us the excuse to order the tender (and gluten-free) rolls. I initially passed them by in the name of other items, including the terrific octopus ceviche, squash empanadas made with green plantain dough, and the adobo lamb shank. The rolls proved indispensable to the entire meal. We dipped them into the chimichurri that came with the blood sausage, ate them with the adobo lamb shank, and, of course, sopped up every drop of the albondigas broth.
Tip: Choose wine instead of the overly sweet cocktails. And, go early enough to enjoy a glass at the bar before being seated.
24 Broadway, 720-550-7267, lenadenver.com
—Photo by Rachel Adams