When Xiaolong Hao first moved from Los Angeles to Denver more than 10 years ago, he took notice of the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” sign at the state border. It’s partly what gave him the idea for the colorful soup dumplings he now serves at Bryan’s Dumpling House.
Each of the eight colors represents a different style of regional cuisine in his native China and each has its own flavor. “This is more about Chinese food culture,” Hao said in an email to The Denver Post. “I want to let people know more about [it] by having real Chinese food.”
So the soup dumplings at Bryan’s, which Hao opened with his wife, Carina Wang, in March (and is named for their son), are just the beginning. The menu also includes mapo tofu; Szechuan-style dan dan noodles with peanuts, scallions and pork; stir-fried shredded pork loin in black bean sauce; as well as regular dumplings in chili oil, shu mai and barbecue pork buns.
“When I first came to the United States, I saw that there were lots of Chinese restaurants, but I had never seen the [dishes] such as chicken broccoli and orange chicken in China,” Hao said about the Americanized Chinese food he found. So, he decided to leave his career as a medical professional and open a restaurant, something he’d thought about since he was a child.
But Bryan’s isn’t the only newish spot upping metro Denver’s dumpling and noodle game. Here is more on Bryan’s, along with three other recently opened spots for noodles and ramen.
MoMo House, which has been operating out of a stand at the Boulder Farmers Market, opened its own location in Westminster in March serving Nepalese-style cuisine, focused around MoMos, which are steamed, filled dumplings. The menu includes chicken, vegan and tofu MoMo, as well as chocolate MoMo for dessert. There are also other rotating dumplings and dishes, including parathas (flatbread) plates, biryani, curries and other Nepalese dishes.
7729 W 92nd Ave., Westminster; therealmomohouse.com
Neko Ramen and Rice
This wholly charming spot in a fast-food strip mall on Colorado Boulevard will wow you not just with its ramen, but also with its decor, which consists of dozens and dozens of waving Japanese lucky cats (or maneki-neko), along with an elegant and clean interior, and plastic cherry blossoms draped about for effect. Chef-owner Vincent Yu moved to Colorado just a few months before opening Neko Ramen and Rice, but he brought extensive education and experience with him. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Yu has worked in the industry for 18 years, specializing in both French and Japanese cuisine, at three-star Michelin restaurants in Las Vegas run by chefs Joël Robuchon and Masa Takayama.
In striking out on his own, Yu chose Denver because he liked the climate. Among the wide variety of ramen at Neko, the black garlic (with pork chashu, black garlic oil, garlic chips, chicken broth, onion, egg, and bean sprouts) and the spicy miso (with pork chashu, miso paste, spicy sauce, chicken broth, onion, egg and bean sprouts) stand out. There are also rice bowls and appetizers, like karaage chicken, pork buns and bang bang shrimp.
4030 Colorado Blvd., Denver; nekoramenandrice.com
Bryan’s Dumpling House
It seems that one of Denver’s past weak spots from a culinary perspective have been soup dumplings, or xiao long bao. There just weren’t enough. That is changing, though, and Bryan’s Dumpling House in Greenwood Village is at the forefront. Although there are many other traditional Chinese and Taiwanese dishes here, the brightly colored, Instagram-friendly soup dumplings are the star of the show as each represents a different flavor and cuisine. Red, for instance, is Szechuan, while green is spinach, orange is kimchi and yellow is cheese.
8000 E. Belleview Ave., Unit B45, Greenwood Village; bryansdumpling.com
This slickly decorated noodle house and cocktail bar has a hip vibe and punchy menu that features Vietnamese (with some influences from Cambodia, Thailand and China) dishes like grilled ribeye with pineapple and chili lime fish sauce in betel leaves; five-spice duck confit; turmeric coconut rice with pastrami, fried egg and chili jam; coconut curry vermicelli; and braised beef cheek noodle soup in Szechuan oil. The cocktail menu includes signature cocktails like the Devil Makes Three with peated single malt Scotch, dry sherry and Angostura bitters; the Old Man and The Sea with rum and fernet; and Tropic of Cancer, made with mezcal, coffee liqueur, cold brew coffee, horchata and condensed milk. Owners Bryce Sweeney and Mario Eckert opened their first location in Seattle in 2018 before coming to Denver in December 2022.
800 Sherman St., Denver; recklessnoodlesdenver.com
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