Los Chingones and Sugarmill – Each Badass in Their Own Way

Los Chingones and Sugarmill – two new Denver restaurants – seem to always be mentioned in the same breath, and while side by side, and run by the same restaurant group, they are distinctly different.
Los Chingones is the tattooed, assertive, badass brother.
Sugarmill is the toile, refined, equally badass sister.
[Chingones is slang for something extremely awesome; badass]
A traditional taqueria, turned up a notch, built on the talents of Chef Troy Guard – with both food and an environment that are loud, funky and dynamic – Los Chingones is a place you go to feed yourself, while feeding off the energy.
I was with a colleague and friend, also a food writer, and we began our generous eating and drinking adventure there – in a booth by the bar – with 6 different salsas and chips, which is exactly how I want to begin at a place like this.
There were the traditional pico de gallo and tomatillo, but the one that stood out was the tomato balsamic.
It was everything I want in a salsa, that I didn’t even know I wanted – sweet, pungent, creamy, dreamy.
We toured through the menu, sharing the Mushroom fundido [nothing says fun quite like fundido], Kampachi crudo, Black kale salad and Brussels sprouts.
The Kampachi crudo with hibiscus infused oil, slices of avocado and jalapeno, was my favorite dish at Los Chingones.
A rare fish to see on a Denver menu, it was tender, while firm, mild in flavor, with the glorious hit of the hibiscus oil – which, in itself, is something I could just spoon into my mouth for hours on end.
We each then ordered a plate of a variety of tacos – done in traditional Mexican street style and size – perfect for sampling through a number of the interesting options like octopus with parsnip chips, and butternut squash with goat cheese – which were my two favorites of the night.
If these don’t do it for you, there’s plenty more where they came from: Griddled Cotija cheese, Chicken leg, Lamb neck, Pork shoulder, Pork stomach, Beef tongue, Skirt steak, Shrimp, and White fish.
We were then shown next door through a back hallway that connects the two spaces – and walking into Sugarmill was both a space and energy shift.
It felt calm and gentle.
But the food coming out of that kitchen, is neither calm or gentle.
Even the pastries, which are often delicate and demure, are powerhouses of presentation and taste.
The Chocolate jasmine bar – a flourless chocolate cake with jasmine cream, and muscavado ice cream, was an unexpected delight.
I can’t remember when, if ever, I’ve had jasmine in a dessert, though it makes complete sense.
And the Noahsphere – which is worth a visit for alone – is a hollow chocolate shell filled with flourless chocolate cake [genius!], marshmallows, candied walnuts and vanilla mascarpone cream.
To gild the lily – or better said, the chocolate sphere – hot caramel is poured over tableside.
Decadent doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Noah French is a respected pastry chef, but don’t overlook the savory options here.
The short rib tortellini with balls of butternut squash and cubes of green apple, was stunning.
There’s also Beef Wellington [when was the last time you saw that on a menu!], Foie Gras torchon, Roasted chicken and more.
I’d make a progressive evening of it as we did.
Begin at Los Chingones for smaller bites, including a couple of tacos – and then go next door and get your main [or share a main with your companion] – followed by the obligatory indulgence of a dessert or three.

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