I Didn’t Think I Could Love Izakaya Den More, But My Love Is as Big as the Sky Now

Most of us in the food world agree, one of Denver’s biggest food stories this year is the opening of the new Izakaya Den space on Pearl Street.
Though they’ve been open in the new space for a couple of months, I was invited to attend a private party there last night to highlight and celebrate the spectacular 2nd Floor Cocktail Lounge, Ten Qoo.
I have to say, though I’m an inclusive person by nature, it was fun to walk in, give my name, have it checked off a list and be invited upstairs to experience a space I’d only heard gushes and raves about.
It felt special, because it was.
A wide, wooden staircase leads you there, past live bamboo growing lush and tall from the main floor, and a lovely, traditional stone and bamboo fountain on the landing, as you make your way up.
I loved the old space.
And it wasn’t even that old, having opened in 2008.
But, as they say, nothing is certain, but change.
They got an offer they couldn’t refuse – and it must have been a hefty one indeed – for them to take on the large task of conceptualizing and constructing yet another space to house, what I consider to be one of the best – and most exciting – restaurants in Denver.
I was introduced to Elizabeth Kizaki, a kind and warm woman, and Yasu’s wife, by our hostess, who then introduced me personally to her husband.
I got to hear from him directly, as he gave me an impromptu, personal tour of the Ten Qoo space, which he explained, means Open Sky in Japanese.
That makes sense, since the centerpiece of it is the gorgeous, substantial skylight – retractable, no less – above the bar.
The light fixtures are all lovely in their own right, but the oversized wooden spheres above the booths and bar seating area, make such a stunning impact, I could hardly focus on the conversations I was having.
Yasu went on to explain the new space is 300 seats, as opposed to the previous one, which seated 220.
With over a 25% increase in ability to accommodate diners, this is a definite upside.
The word Izakaya, is the Japanese equivalent of a pub, but Izakaya Den is so very much more than that.
It’s an elegant, sophisticated restaurant, while retaining the charm and approachability I want anywhere I dine.
It is not like me to write this much and not make mention of one item of food or drink.
That’s how mesmerizingly gorgeous the space is.
But, of course we have to talk food, and I could wax poetic about their Lobster Ramen Bowl for paragraphs.
My enthusiasm for that dish is just that deep.
But, on this evening, we were introduced to some new things from Chef Toshi’s exceptional food vision.
Executed by their new Chef de Cuisine, Daniel Bradley – an Alice Waters alum, who Toshi and Yasu had the smarts to snatch up almost immediately upon his arrival in Denver – these were exquisite bites of food.
Black truffle arancini – 3 of the best words I’ve ever heard, and best bites I’ve ever tasted.
Miso cod.
If this was strictly a post about the food, I would consider writing just those two words as the only sentence and whole post, and let you understand the full gravity of how delicious this is.
I tried to retain some sense of decorum and dignity and only go back for seconds – but what I really wanted to do was pull up a chair to that area of the buffet and make myself at home.
There was sushi, of course, and sweet and sour fried shrimp.
The other bite – or should I say, slurp – that really stood out, was the pine nut gazpacho, with carbonated plum puree.
I’m not typically a bells and whistles kind of food lover.
But you can ring my bell and blow my whistle any day of the week about the idea, taste, and genius of plum puree, carbonating it, and then pairing with pine nut gazpacho.
The drinks were no less exciting.
Izakaya Den/Ten Qoo is specializing in sake based cocktails [though, of course you can get others] and my favorite of the evening was the Lost in Translation: Asian pear sake, lychee, fresh muddled strawberries – I could have had 5 more of those.
Seriously, 5 more.
It’s the one I highly recommended to Kris Browning Blas when she arrived – but did so with the caveat that she should take her straw out of it, because of the sheer velocity she’d want to use it to get the drink into her mouth [she never did give up her straw] – and this is a real concern when people are operating motor vehicles and driving back to places like Westminster and Ft. Collins.
I don’t know what else to tell you.
Just get there.
As soon as possible.

3 thoughts on “I Didn’t Think I Could Love Izakaya Den More, But My Love Is as Big as the Sky Now

  1. I ate at Izakaya Den Friday night and it was the best meal I’ve had since moving to Denver in July (and I’ve had some great meals) from New York. It was an absolutely perfect experience all around! And I know what you mean about the Miso Cod!

    Thanks for sharing all the behind-the-scenes details!

    1. Thanks for your note, Lisa. We moved here from New York in 1994 – and it was hard to find an exceptional meal – thankfully all of that has changed! This truly is one of the best spots in Denver, and there are many, many more you should check out. Email me if you want our top picks – forksociallab@gmail.com.

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