I knew that once we got to DC it would be harder for us to go out to eat, so I used our last few weeks in Denver to hit all of the restaurants that I had been meaning to go to. I’d had my eye on ChoLon for many months, but since Dan doesn’t like Asian food, I never quite got around to going. Luckily my foodie friend Christina does, so she and I had a goodbye dinner there.
I’ve passed by ChoLon a hundred times, and each time I’ve seen these huge rice and sesame cakes lining the window. It turns out that they’re sort of like an Asian take on the bread basket you get at a lot of restaurants before the meal. Sadly, this wasn’t nearly as good as a bread basket. We ended up sending it back after only a few nibbles.
literally as big as my head!
Fortunately, we fared much better the rest of the night. The restaurant had a Prix Fixe menu which allowed us to order three small bites, two entrees, and a dessert between the two of us, and we both jumped at the chance to get more tastes.
We started out with the French onion soup dumplings with sweet onion and gruyere. The dumplings arrived piping hot, but they were sort of like the Rocky Mountain oysters I tried once – an interesting concept without much flavor . The French onion soup flavor was not as strong as I had expected, either.
Christina chose the pork belly pot stickers with ginger mustard, a much better decision. I’ve always thought that all pot stickers tasted pretty much the same, but these were so delicious that they have reset my personal pot sticker bar. The pork belly was delicious, but the ginger mustard stole the show, adding an extra depth of flavor. After the pot stickers were gone,. I even thought for a moment about sneaking a spoonful of the ginger mustard all by itself.. Alas, I did not have a spoon, and a chopstick-ful would not have been as satisfying, and probably a lot messier.
do you think the waitress would notice if I took the dipping sauce dish with me?
I had also heard great reviews of our next choice, the kaya toast, which was topped with coconut jam and accompanied by an egg cloud to dip it in. The toast reminded me a lot of the gorgonzola and honey bruschetta from Caveau. Christina got a bit of smoke in her first bite, which we concluded after much pondering must have been a big bite of pepper. Later, we quizzed our waitress about the recipe and were amazed that so few ingredients could turn into such a complex dish.
I swear, there is gorgonzola in this dish. slurp slurp
When we ordered our entrees, one of Christina’s true hidden talents emerged. She is so good at selecting food from a menu that I think she should become a professional food orderer. (wouldn’t that be a great job? professional food orderer?) Her entrée selection won best dish of the night, hands down.
She ordered pork tenderloin topped with Chinese bacon sauce and paired with a butternut squash puree and greens. The bacon sauce was sweet and salty and brought out the sweetness of the tender pork, and the bacon itself was crispy and delicious, providing a nice textural contrast. The greens were perfectly cooked and tender too, but the butternut squash puree was the true highlight of the dish.
While we were eating it, we kept trying to figure out what made it so good, but we could never quite put our finger on it. After almost licking the plate, I’m still not sure what it was. I think I will have to start making butternut squash purees until I find one that matches this. It was amazing.
Hello Butternut Squash, please jump into my belly…
I had my eye on the vegetable fried rice with a poached egg, since my love of runny eggs knows no bounds, and I’ve been enjoying fried rice dishes more and more recently.
Unfortunately, after we took a few bites of this dish we decided that the flavors needed to meld a little more. We left most of it on the plate, and Christina took it home with her. No doubt she turned the leftovers into something delicious.
Oops, should have gotten a picture before the egg was mixed in
For dessert, we decided to have the five spiced doughnuts, Vietnamese coffee ice cream and condensed milk. The donuts were still warm and served as a great sponge for the quickly-melting ice cream, which had just the right amount of bitterness and coffee flavor (along with some interesting crunchy pieces of something). The condensed milk finished everything off on a delicious sweet caramel note.
The items on the right are donuts, not raw duck and chicken breasts!
I’m sad that I waited until my last week to eat here, since this place is a fantastic option for foodies looking for a new take on traditional Asian fare. Not only was the food amazing, but the wait-staff was fantastic - they were attentive but not overbearing. We were busy talking and probably ate slower than our waiter would have liked, but we were never rushed and our next course was always brought out an appropriate amount of time after our last course had been removed. The famed chef, Lou Sysema, even stopped by during dessert just to ask how our dinner was going. If I had a chance, I would definitely go back.
I should also note that since we made our reservation through Savored, which gives you a discount on your check, we ended up saving money (after the $10 reservation fee was taken into account) which is a good deal. You have to spend money to save money, I always say! (Dan doesn’t always agree with that).