ChoLon Bistro: "Big Market" translates into "Great Taste"

ChoLon Bistro: "Big Market" translates into "Great Taste"

by Tracy Shaffer

ChoLon-Map In my fifteen years in Denver, I have never known a restaurant to create the kind of noise that the new ChoLon Asian Bistro has. Open only a month, I have heard friends from every hive buzzing "You have to try ChoLon" and ”Oh my god, I have a new favorite restaurant!". One fine Indian Summer day, I threw out my own "We have to try ChoLon" when I got a call from Tellurider, Jennie Franks, asking where to meet for lunch. Located in the Sugar Cube Building at 15th and Blake, you step from the bustle of LoDo into the hip serenity of the new Saigon: stately and relaxed, peaceful in its minimalist design, and alive with conversation and energy unique to Denver eateries.

There is no pretense here in ChoLon, only warmth, steaming from the baskets of Soup Dumplings and the heart of its chef, Lon Symensma.  Though he looks like a fresh-faced grad just hatched from cooking school, the award-winning Chef Symensma has more than a decade of global seasoning in his wok. Working in world-class kitchens from New York to Shanghai, with stops in San Sebastian and the South of France, our humble host has a refined palate and created an indelible menu that has embedded itself within my dream center. 

Rarely do I have an opportunity to savor a meal, a conversation and a mid-day Sauvignon Blanc so the mix of a bright autumnal day and talking Telluride Playwrights Festival in the culinary cocoon of ChoLon was dreamy indeed. We sat at the counter of the open kitchen and were wrapped in hospitality as Chef Lon made suggestions, described the food, told us how his father made the artistic serving dish which held our spring rolls from the black walnut of his native Ohio. Something tells me we aren't the only customers to receive the royal treatment as Symensma works the line from the restaurant side as he carefully prepares is creations for presentation. "I use four basic flavors: sweet, spicy, hot and salty" he told us "and it's the way you use and layer them that makes them stand out." And they are outstanding. We sampled a bit of everything; kaya toast with a bit of coconut jam and an egg cloud, the soup dumplings made with sweet onion and Gruyère, a lemongrass-beet salad and a grilled pork satay I've dreamed about for weeks. 

Lunch begins at 11:00 and the Small Bites menu is served all day. In the late afternoon, the staff sits down to a Family Meal that looked so yummy I was tempted to apply for a job. Dinner is served at 5:00, perfect for a bite  before a 6:30 curtain at the Denver Center Theatre (my plan for tomorrow) and their hours extend for the possibility of a unique post-show treat, something hard to find.



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