Korean cuisine is a unique combination of flavors and textures that has been gaining traction in the United States. From savory and spicy to bittersweet, explore the rich complexities of Korean cuisine at these must-visit Denver restaurants. J. W.
Lee, from Mono Mono Korean Fried Chicken, has opened numerous inspired eateries in his homeland since relocating to Colorado 15 years ago. The chef and owner of Seoul Hospitality Group, born in South Korea, has introduced many Coloradans to the flavors and dishes of his native country. In Aurora alone, Denverans can indulge in Korean food late at night at the ThankSool Pocha K pub, which offers specialties such as spicy stews and soju (a transparent rice liqueur); enjoy juicy meatballs at Seoul Mandoo; or cook their own meats on table grills at Seoul K-BBQ and Hot Pot. Lee has a long career in the hospitality industry and was trained in South Korea.
He moved to California, which has a large Korean population, and worked in sushi restaurants there and in Chicago before moving to St. Louis, where he opened his first restaurant. Although a handful of Korean fried chicken restaurants have sprung up in Aurora in the past five years, Lee wanted to open something downtown, away from the group of existing restaurants. Combining the ambience of a chalet in a mountain city with mid-century modern details, Thompson Denver also functions as a culinary destination with its star chef restaurant and a sexy social scene with its cocktail lounges, making it a hot spot for Denverans and travelers alike. When Lee started opening Korean restaurants, he wanted to introduce more Korean meats to Americans.
What better way than with French fries? Lee says he was inspired by eating meaty nachos at a baseball game, which led him to create a basket of chips covered with kimchi covered with scallions, aioli and bulgogi. Today, he says, French fries with kimchi are Mono Mono's most popular snack. Rice cakes, steamed chunks of rice flour dough, are one of Korea's most revered street foods. Lee used to eat them as a child when he returned home from school, and Mono Mono guests can enjoy the same experience with Lee's chewy rice cupcakes, which are simmered in a gochujang sauce until they're steeped in sweet and savory spices. Kimchi, a fiery and fermented dish of cabbage and radish, is one of Korea's best-known foods and is usually served as a spicy side dish to main courses, such as fried chicken or bulgogi.
Guests can choose from a variety of sauces to coat their poultry, such as soy and garlic, hot and spicy, teriyaki, soy or hot teriyaki glaze, or sauté the sauce completely for simple crispy fried chicken. Chicken is usually served as an appetizer in a bao bun stuffed with hoisin sauce and coleslaw, as a dish of simple crispy or sweet and sticky wings or as a combination of fried and tender drumsticks. Fans of portable devices can order the bird between two slices. Now reportedly there are twice as many fried chicken restaurants in the country as McDonald's or Subways. Here are eight amazing Korean restaurants in Denver that you should visit especially if you're an avid enthusiast of these delicacies and dishes:
- Broadway's New Dae Gee
- Mono Mono Korean Fried Chicken
- ThankSool Pocha K pub
- Seoul Mandoo
- Seoul K-BBQ & Hot Pot
- Thompson Denver
- Bounce Empire