Monday, November 05, 2007

Harry’s Chop House

Harry’s Chop House

When I envision a great chop house, two different sceneries typically run through my mind; the dark paneled old boys clubs of the old lawyer movies; and the simplistic “we’re just here for the food” setup of the old cowboy movies. Where does Harry’s fit in? Neither of these actually. Harry’s is a cozy neighborhood “IT” spot. The ambiance is stylish yet warm; the dining area features dark-wood furnishings, snug booths and walls mounted with amber-hued sconces. It’s a Thursday night, the house is packed and the show has been rewritten, rehearsed and is ready for applause. On with the show!

Act One: Appetizers
Scene One.
For starters I tantalized my taste buds with Yellowfin Tuna Tartare served with Shitake Mushroom Pot Stickers and a Curry Vinaigrette. The presentation is beautiful, simple yet playful. The Tartare was superb, thin and tender, perfectly seasoned. The Pot Stickers are crisp, sweet and savory. The combination of the light, refreshing Tartare with the savory Pot Stickers is unexpected yet delightful. Diva’s Dish: 7/10 Diva Stars

Scene Two.
Harry’s classic Shrimp cocktail. The Shrimp cocktail features jumbo shrimp cooked and chilled to perfection. The shrimp are firm yet tender. The sauce is a Horseradish Crème Fraîche, Herbed Tomato Coulis. The flavors are muddy, and are reminiscent of a child’s first experimentation in the kitchen, dumping everything he can get his hands on into the mix. This sauce is so awful that I would rather eat ketchup! Diva’s Dish: 4/10 Diva Stars

Act 3: The Main Course
And for the Marvel of a main course I was entertained with a 14 oz blackened Rib Eye served with Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Mushrooms with a gorgonzola fondue. The steak is seared to perfection; the spice rub is alluring, the right balance of the beef’s natural flavors and a custom blend of spices. The mashed potatoes are creamy, buttery and melt in my mouth. The sautéed mushrooms are bursting with flavor. The gorgonzola fondue is the star of this act, rich and creamy, with earthy flavors it is a perfect companion to the blackened Rib Eye. Diva’s Dish: 8/10 Diva Stars

Diva’s Dish on Harry’s Chop House: This is a show worth a second run.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Yia Yia's Euro Cafe

YiaYia’s Euro Café

What’s the latest Denver hot spot that makes this Diva say yum yum?
Yia Yia’s of course!

YiaYia’s décor is reminiscent of a 18th century Swiss castle. The décor features open pine trusses, stone pillars, quilted walls featuring a mix of sage and mustard panels with a light iris pattern, stone tile floor, cozy booths covered with a variety of tapestry patterns mixed with dark leather and faux marble table tops. The rustic yet stately interior is completed with rod iron & merino glass chandlers. The atmosphere is completed with phenomenal service. Overall, Yia Yia’s is cool yet cozy especially on a frigid Colorado night! To experience the phenomenal service ask for Christian.

On cold Colorado nights, one must warm up the taste buds before delving into the main course. We started our Divalicious meal with warm goat cheese fondue. Now as you well know, I love cheese, all cheese, so without batting an eye I order the fondue. My faithful dining companion however is not so sure about the goat and responds with “goat?” “eww!”. At this time I educate him on the difference between a goat and a ewe, explaining that a ewe is a sheep and a goat is well a goat! (I also take this opportunity to explain that wool comes from sheep and cashmere comes from goats.) Seriously! For as much as this man likes to eat he knows nothing about food!

Anyway, back to the fondue! The warm aromatic goat cheese was served with crispy fried artichokes, toasted bread, and topped with oven roasted tomatoes. The goat cheese was warm and full bodied; the artichokes were fresh and crisp. This goat cheese fondue is a must do!
Diva’s Dish: 9/10 Diva Stars

Now that my taste buds have been warmed and stimulated I am ready to move on to my Grilled Atlantic Salmon served with shrimp ravioli, crisp asparagus tips and sweet onions in chardonnay-shrimp butter reduction. If this salmon was in the wild it wouldn’t have made the trip upstream, instead it would be lackadaisically relaxing in a pool of cool water content with just being alive. Although the salmon was sushi-grade it was a little soft and rather bland. In the words of Mr. Jim Carrey in Liar Liar “I’ve had better”. The shrimp ravioli however was amazing. The succulent tender shrimp was enfolded in a fresh and tender pasta dough to form perfect luscious raviolis. Although the sweet onions were a little bitter, the chardonnay reduction was superb. The reduction was warm and rich without being heavy or starchy. Next time hold the salmon and make the ravioli the main attraction.
Diva’s Dish: 8/10 Diva Stars

As always, I am required by my title (Queen Diva of the Denver Dining World) to sample all food that is placed upon my throne, I mean table. So naturally I had to sample the pan seared scallops served with seafood ravioli in a light creamy tomato sauce. The scallops were light and buttery, the ravioli was bold and tangy. Amazingly the seafood ravioli and the shrimp ravioli taste nothing alike! This proves that the chef at Yia Yia’s is indeed a true chef. The sauce was a light creamy tomato with a kick of roasted pepper, a little too much of a kick for my taste, but good none the less. Although this dish was delish, to make the perfect meal I would take the scallops and add them to the shrimp ravioli, that would be a perfect 10!
Diva’s Dish: 7/10 Diva Stars

On to dessert!
There are certain delicacies that are difficult to find. As such, the rule is as follows: if you see a hard to find item on a menu you must order it! One of the hard to find dining delights is in fact a dessert, chocolate soufflé. Soufflé is one of those to die for desserts that are so difficult to make that many pastry chefs would rather die than make the tricky little dessert. So the rule goes if the chef is willing to cook chocolate soufflé you must order it!

The chocolate Soufflé at Yia Yia’s is served with fresh strawberries, vanilla ice cream and a sweet yet tart strawberry sauce. The soufflé is warm and decedent, the outer edges have a perfect flaky texture which compliments the full and multi-dimensional center. The soufflé is dynamic and worth every last calorie!
Diva’s Dish: 9/10 Diva Stars

Diva’s Dish on Yia Yia’s: yum yum!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Strings; music to the taste buds!


What is the latest divine dining experience? Strings, celebrating its 30th year in business (for a very good reason!). This popular, yet slightly egocentric restaurant was bustling with excitement, people coming and going hugging and laughing. Strings is the type of place old friends meet to catch up, newlyweds splurge on “date night” and the usuals stake out at their favorite table. The mood is fun and lighthearted, but the atmosphere is sheer elegance. The service is exceptional, with a staff that will go out of their way to complete your dining experience. The menu is creative, focusing on new American cuisine, with a funky twist and daring and creative flavors.

Are you hungry yet?

As you well know, my preferred way to start a meal is with Tartare.

The Tartare at Strings is an Ahi Tuna Tartare, mixed with avocado and a lemon-ginger vinaigrette, served with crispy wonton chips. The Tartare is presented on a chilled glass window block; very art deco. Many times it seems the better the presentation, the worse the food…this is not the case at Strings. The simple, yet sheik presentation is right on par with the pure refreshing flavor and texture of the tartare.
Diva’s Dish: 8 /10 Diva Stars

Next in the starting line up is Strings' Rock and Roll Shrimp Jumbo shrimp cocktail. The jumbo shrimp were cooked to perfection, however the sauce didn’t make the cut for the JV squad. A good cocktail sauce should be light, refreshing and full of bold crisp flavor. String’s cocktail sauce defiantly was not rockin’ or rollin’. The sauce was heavy, almost muddy, the flavors didn’t blend well, and in fact the only discernable flavor was the retched Middle Eastern herb horseradish. Yeck! However, the shrimp were fresh, flavorful and saved the dish.
Diva’s Dish: 6/10 Diva Stars

Which entrée met my discriminating taste? Seared Scallops served with sweet potato flan, asparagus and a sage cream. The scallops were seared to a heavenly perfection, crisp on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside. These melt in your mouth scallops were paired with a warm aromatic sage cream that enhanced every bite. The asparagus was grilled to perfection and delicately poised on the sweet potato flan. Sweet potato flan you ask? Well it is tantalizing; warm and velvety, yet earthy and fresh. These seemingly different flavors blend together to make a divalicious dish! All in all this is by far the best dish to date!
Diva’s Dish: 9/10 Diva Stars

And what kind of Diva would I be if I didn’t sample other’s food? On this particular occasion, my newly engaged sister and her fiancé joined us for dinner. Her fiancé being the smart man he is, followed suit and ordered the Seared Scallops, my sister on the other hand, a youthful adventurer chose the Braised Veal Osso Buco.

The Braised Veal is served with rosemary jus, gremolata, roasted pepper polenta. It is a very rare occasion when I am at a loss for words, but the thinking of the veal my mind keeps repeating the same thing, “Mom’s crock-pot pot roast”, and “yuck”. I have never seen veal prepared quite like this before…a hunk of bone, surrounded by a chunk of meat, drenched in au jus and surrounded by muddy pepper polenta. The muddy flavor and anodyne veal are a dismal disappointment.
Diva’s Dish: 2/10 Diva Stars

Diva’s Dish on Strings: music to the taste buds!