Tag Archives: sushi

Pre-Theater Visit to Epernay

Great DCPA location & terrific food marred by slow service

P1030986I have been wanting to try Epernay ever since I learned that Duy Pham, once chef at Tante Louise who left Denver to try to make a fine dining beachhead in Pueblo, returned and was the opening chef at this stylish lounge and sushi-plus restaurant at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. People I know who were there for the opening raved. My friend Claudia and I went to Epernay on Tuesday before seeing “Peter & The Starcatcher,” but I seem to have waited too long. Duy Pham is no longer in charge of the kitchen, except sometimes on busy weekend nights.

Michael Degenhart, who was Pham’s opening sous-chef, is now top toque and appears to be continuing the sushi-heavy but not sushi-exclusive menu. We arrived in plenty of time for happy hour, which features half-price drinks and a mostly-$5 small plates menu. Asian-oriented Epernay is mysteriously named after the capital of the Champagne region of France, so I ordered some bubbly. Happy hour is only available in the bar/lounge area, which is hip looking and energetic feeling. The look is jazzy, while the adjacent dining room is an oasis of elegant tranquility.

The attractive dining room was mostly empty on a Tuesday evening, even when the lounge where we ate was busy and a private party occupied a separate room.
The attractive dining room was mostly empty on a Tuesday evening, even when the lounge where we ate was busy and a private party occupied a separate room.

Despite a great location on the 14th Street side of the DCPA garage that should have theater-goers lining up before the show, Epernay’s signage is pathetic. You can read it if you are looking straight at the front of the building, but nothing noteworthy juts out over the sidewalk. The Four Seasons, The Curtis and the Hotel Teatro occupy three close-by corners, but I’m wondering whether guests who go out of the house to dine are heading straight for Larimer Square.

The lounge features high-backed, white booths surrounding knee-high can accommodate groups of 6 or 8. This design, while encouraging guests to lean toward one another, makes it virtually impossible for the servers to glance to see whether anyone wants attention, has empty plates or anything else that they ought to notice. Maybe that was responsible for the slow service, or maybe it was just our waitress who seemed to suffer from attentiveness deficit disorder. She didn’t look, she didn’t come over to check on us and consequently, she didn’t impress. The food, however, made a positive impression.

Caesar salad, ordered without bacon, but with a fine, fresh gently cooked egg.
Caesar salad, ordered without bacon, but with a fine, fresh gently cooked egg.
Hand roll.
Hand roll.
White sushi on a white plate.
White sushi on a white plate.

Price check: At happy hour until 6:30 p.m., most small plates are $5.

Epernay Lounge on Urbanspoon

Evening Eats at Sushi Tora

Simple decor, simple sushi presentation and simply delicious flavors

Considering Boulder’s location and the relatively small Asian, make that Japanese, population, there’s a lot of sushi to be had in the People’s Republic. Every supermarket in town sells sushi (some made on-site by Japanese chefs), and there are five sushi restaurants on (or no more than a short block from) Pearl Street between 10th and 15th. Sushi Zanmai and Sushi Tora were both around when I moved here in 1988, and I’m not sure which came first. I do know that Sushi Zanmai is showy and exudes a karaoke exuberance, while Sushi Tora has an air of Zenlike tranquility — at least early in the evening. The sushi at both if very food, made to order by trained sushi chefs using fresh ingredients.

Sushi Tora, whichsome three years ago was bought by the same folks who have Tahoe Tequila Bistro and since then have opened the Pearl Street Steak Room. These are three very different restaurants on two sides of one city block. They have managed to present each totally differently in terms of appearance, ambiance and food — and I give them a lot of credit for that. Bottom like is that if you didn’t know they were under the same ownership, you wouldn’t know.

Unadorned simplicity remains the Sushi Tora style.

Continue reading Evening Eats at Sushi Tora

NaRaYa Combines Thai & Japanese Dishes

New name for former Siamese Plate location that still serves Thai and Japanese food

 The Siamese Plate on Folsom Avenue was the first Thai restaurant that I ever visited in Boulder. For years, it was line-out-the-door popular. With cross-fertilization between it and the sushi restaurant downstairs, guests could order sushi upstairs and pad thai downstairs. It was, for a time, so successful that it spawned the Siamese Plate On The  Go that at one point had locations in North Boulder and also Louisville. I don’t know who owned these businesses or what happened to them, but they are all gone.

NaRaYa Thai & Sushi opened late last year in the former Siamese Plate space. The sunken tables are gone, the sink-into couch seating is gone and a sushi bar is in place in back, but Thai is the dominant gene. NaRaYa continues the tradition of offering both Thai and Japanese dishes. The name “Naraya” is well suited for the present incarnation, because it is is the name of both a Thai deity and a Japanese prefecture.  The old sushi space below seems dark, which IMO is no loss since their sushi was mediocre. 

Chicken satay with peanut sauce on the side, found in every Thai restaurant in the West.
Thai basil stir fry of vegetables and tofu.
Chicken curry encircled with steamed broccoli flowerettes.

My husband and I ordered only from the Thai menu, but we saw other diners creating mix-and-match meals from both cuisines. Although I wasn’t knocked out by the food, it was tasty, the service was pleasant and out window table conjured up pleasant memories of my early years in Boulder, when the Siamese Plate ruled. I’m very glad that NaRaYa is in business, and I was happy to see a decent number of diners. The owners, Ratiya Edfors, originally from Chiangmai in northern Thailand, and Pranom Kiatreungwattana, originally from Nonthaburi not for from the Golf of Thailand, both came to the United States as graduate students. Now, these two women are partners in this pleasant Boulder restaurant — Edfors as execuctive chef and “PK”  in charge of the business end.

Price check: On the Thai menu at dinner, appetizers, $4.95-$6.75 (plus $11.75 for a combo platter); soups, $6.55-$8.25; salads, $6.55-$8.75; $9.25-$12.50.

NaRaYa on Urbanspoon