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Denver has no shortage of great ramen shops, but even the most artisan among them uses factory-produced—rather than house-made—noodles. Edwin Zoe, the restaurateur behind the pair of Taiwanese fast-casual concepts called Zoe Ma Ma, is taking on that status quo with his new Boulder eatery, Chimera, which opens today. There, he’s serving what he’s dubbed “Pacific Rim cuisine”—a purposefully broad term that refers to countries that border the Pacific Ocean. Right now, the menu is mostly rooted in China, Japan, and Korea, “but as we evolve, we’ll focus on other countries,” Zoe says.
While there are also plenty of Pan-Asian restaurants on the Front Range, Chimera is something different. It’s distinguishing factor? All of its ramen noodles—as well as the steamed buns for its bao and the crab-and-pork filling and wrappers for its “xiao long bao” (soup dumplings)—are made from scratch, a process that requires as much labor, time, and finesse as you might imagine.
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Chimera’s concise menu—executed by chef Corey Buck, a veteran of Blackbelly Market and Matsuhisa—is divided into three sections: “Little Eat,” “Big Eat,” and “Sweet!” You should start off with the first section’s dim sum: If you can resist the juicy call of the xiao long bao, the steamed potstickers filled with roast duck and the textbook-perfect pork belly bao are also worth ordering.
Decisions don’t get easier when you reach the “Big Eat” section, in which butter-poached lobster ramen (brimming with those gloriously nubby house-made organic noodles), a spicy Korean seafood hot pot, “chow fun” rice noodles with chicken or shrimp, and tea-smoked-chicken fried rice all vie for your attention. And a standout sweet has to be the “big” fortune cookie, a crisp tuille folded into the requisite shape and piped full of red bean chocolate mousse. Zoe is adamant that none of these dishes are fusion fare, but rather “flavors rooted to their origins with a more modern presentation.”
For the restaurant’s peaceful design, Zoe took inspiration from water elements, evoking the flow of the ocean with wavy wooden slats on the ceiling, punctuated by white lotus flower pendant lights; iridescent, fish-scale-esque tile on the bar counter underscores the theme. The bar will serve a variety of tropical, tiki-inspired cocktails and sakes to complement the food.
Chimera is now open for dinner, with plans to expand into lunch service in May. Eventually, Zoe intends to add weekend dim sum brunch service—replete with sparkling sake mimosas.
2014 10th St., Boulder