Thursday, September 1, 2011

If You Ever Find Yourself In Denver...

You must absolutely try Rioja in downtown Denver! During a recent trip to Denver, I had the opportunity to dine at an amazing Mediterranean inspired restaurant called Rioja. When we arrived, the restaurant and bar were both pumping with electrifying excitement! They were slammed. We made a reservation, which I definitely recommend, but still had to wait on a table--and on a Tuesday night. About 10-15 minutes later, our party of six was seated at what was probably the best seat in the house, just in front of the semi-exposed kitchen. Rioja has a patio as well, which I'm sure is great especially on a sweet Denver evening, but if you are seated in the house, this is the best table. We sat down and were immediately greeted by a server who was excellent. The wine and cocktail list was quite impressive, so impressive that I couldn't decide which route to take. Normally, I would have chosen a Portuguese Vinho Verde on a warm summer evening like this one, but careful not to over indulge and essentially "fill up," I decided on a cocktail. I tried the Poma-Ginger Martini. It was quite delish but reminded me of Christmas and because of that, I only had one. Due to having to wait for our table, we were served the amazing Rioja Picnic of House Cured Meats-beef and pork, cheeses-warm pine nut crusted goat cheese and Italian Mountain gorgonzola, truffle fennel salad, orange confit, olives, House Made crackers, and rosemary almonds, on the house. Ah-Mazing doesn't even describe it! Next, we tried an appetizer of House Made Ravioli stuffed with a goat cheese, artichoke and truffle oil mousse. The only word I can use to describe this dish is: DIVINE. We asked for extra house made breads (sour dough with lavender went best with this dish) so we could "sop up" (as we say here in the south) the remaining sauce. For my entree, I chose the pan seared halibut with a cucumber wrapped salad of Dungeness Crab, avocado, hearts of palm tarragon crème fraîche, heirloom tomato carpaccio and vinaigrette, crispy shallots, and micro parsley. It was so delicious and I couldn't wait to dig in! Check out the picture below. I almost took a bite before remembering to snap a quick picture for you! ;) So glad I remembered!
As if that wasn't enough, our marvelous server treated us to a mini dessert each, even after we turned him down on the dessert menu. We were pleasantly surprised to receive complimentary mini beignets stuffed with warm chocolate and figs. It was delectable! It was down right unfortunate that I was so full; I could only consume one bite. :(
If you ever find yourself near Larimer Square in downtown Denver, do yourself a favor and try this little culinary delight. You. Won't. Regret. It.--I promise!
Check out Rioja at 1431 Larimer Street, Denver, CO  303.820.2282   And definitely make a reservation.

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