Postcard From Tom: Denver

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema's monthly report from the road.

Discriminating tourists, health-conscious locals and pride in the state's products (think Colorado lamb) translate into an increasingly vibrant food scene in Denver. Check out the goods:

FRASCA (1738 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-6966)

Why include a restaurant from Boulder? Because it's only 25 miles from Denver -- and because it offers some of the best Italian food between the coasts. Frasca is owned by friends who once toiled at the acclaimed French Laundry in Napa Valley and who now deliver a taste of Fruili, in northeastern Italy, in a spare but stylish room that includes a salumi bar. That counter is your cue to order a plate of prosciutto, salami and speck before moving on to lamb-stuffed ravioli, buttery sea bass and perhaps a tasting of hand-crafted chocolates. Check out the boutique wines; no bottle is priced more than $20 over retail. Entrees $19-$31.

SNOOZE (2262 Larimer St., Denver, 303- 297-0700)

You'll do anything but fall asleep in this slightly retro and totally gracious tribute to breakfast, where pancakes can be sampled as "flights" (three per plate, one of which should be pineapple upside-down cake) and the burrito is bundled with scrambled eggs, shredded potatoes, cheese and (yeow!) green chile sauce. Try to snag table No. 8, a circular booth that looks like a Tilt-O-Whirl on a diet and takes in a great view of the scene. Breakfast dishes $5-$8.

SUSHI DEN (1487 S. Pearl St., Denver, 303-777-0826)

Chef-owner Toshi Kizaki is the city's undisputed master when it comes to sushi, which he's been rolling for more than two decades. His fish is pristine, the wasabi is grated fresh and a request for omakase ("chef's choice") yields a parade of delights, among them yellowtail belly pricked with jalapeno, creamy house-made tofu, miso-marinated black cod and smoky grilled baby octopus. Kizaki's wife makes the desserts, which include some sweet surprises: tiramisu, anyone? Sushi $4-$10.

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