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With spring in full force, restaurant dishes are bright with morels, ramps, and English peas. But along with this lightened up shift, I’ve noticed another evolution: more Asian-inspired flavors on traditional menus. Take the curried chicken (pictured) at Colt & Gray, which shares menu space with dishes such as lamb tartare and pan-roasted rabbit. For the entrée, chef-owner Nelson Perkins seasons deboned and brined thigh meat with curry spices including fenugreek, urfa chile, sumac, long pepper, and cardamom. The decadent chicken, which is cooked sous vide and then fried until crispy, arrives with preserved lemon–herbed couscous and carrots cooked in coconut curry. The final components are carrot purée, vadouvan (a French-influenced Indian curry of garlic, shallot, and chiles), and carrot top leaves. Each bite imparts the beauty of French technique with the mesmerizing character of the Far East.
Over on Larimer Square, Jennifer Jasinski serves grilled kajiki at her Mediterranean-inspired Rioja. The flaky white fish is served with a fragrant Thai green curry, coconut rice, and green papaya. And, a look at other menus around town turns up a Thai chile–flecked salmon tartare at Bittersweet, fish sauce and xo (a spicy Chinese seafood sauce) in the Squeaky Bean‘s Eastern spaghetti, a Korean chicken rice bowl with kimchi at Fuel Cafe, and lemongrass aioli with Thai chicken nuggets at Session Kitchen.
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The presence of these bold, enticing flavors reflects not just chefs’ ever-expanding repertoire, but Denverites’ interest in ingredients that bring new dimension to familiar foods.
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