Rioja was the first restaurant I went to in Denver. And wow, was it delicious. My friend, D, recommended it. She has wonderful taste in food and is also a fantastic chef. I hopefully will be posting one of her recipes soon.
We started with the Fresh Bacon, which was cardamom spiced Kurobuta pork belly in a Madras curry scented fresh garbanzo bean purée. We split it and it was melt in your mouth good. The cardamom really added a nice dimension to the pork and I couldn’t stop dipping my bread (also delicious, and they served different varieties) into the garbanzo puree.
I completely overloaded on the bread by the way. There were these little goat cheese muffins and I couldn’t stop stuffing them in my mouth.
I ordered the grilled bone in rib-eye with crisp “eggplant parmesan” and arugula salsa verde, heirloom tomatoes, parmesan emulsion with minus 8 ice wine vinegar. It sounded too interesting to pass up. I usually veer away from steaks on a menu but…I’m so glad I didn’t because the steak was so so good. It was tender, and so full of flavor. The arugula salsa verde added such a light complement to it, I had to finish the entire steak. The heirloom tomatoes were ripe and delicious especially with the parmesan emulsion. I think the only thing that did not stick out to me was the eggplant parmesan. It just seemed kind of out of place on the dish but it was nice and crispy.
I also tried halibut for the first time! I have to admit, I don’t eat seafood. It’s something with the smell. I attribute to a highly sensitive sense of smell coupled with going to Chinatown fish markets growing up (very pungent fish aroma). It’s kind of a mental block now but I’m getting better.
Anyway, I thought the food I had at Rioja was completely interesting, and very delicious. Plus, its location in Larimer Square is perfect. It was pricey though, my steak was $29 by itself but I felt that it was completely worth it.