Shoutout to Rioja

Rioja (on Larimer Square) was one of the first really good restaurants that we ate at in Denver.  Em ate at Rioja when she came to Denver for her job interview.  She loved it, so we ate there again on the night we got engaged.  That’s another way of say that Rioja is special to us.  We have probably been four or five times in the last year.  Sometimes we go for work lunches and sometimes for dinners together or with friends.  Because we love Rioja so much, we have been waiting for a good excuse to write a review.  And yesterday, Andrew ate their for lunch, so we have that excuse.

Rioja is a sister restaurant to Ultreia.  Both are part of the Crafted Concepts group of restaurants with Stoic & Genuine, Euclid Hall, and Bistro Vendôme.  And though we were a little underwhelmed with Ulreia the first time we went, Rioja has consistently delivered on every visit.

When he goes for work lunches, Andrew keeps it simple and just orders the lamb burger.  The lamb burger comes with house made mozzarella, spicy aioli, and arugula salad.  We can’t in good conscience give any non-beef burger a “best burger” designation.  But with that caveat, the lamb burger at Rioja is damn good.

Folks ordered several other great dishes at lunch, including the burrata, the “picnic”, and the roasted beets.  The burrata is made with wild mushroom conserva, gooseberry jam, pumpkin seeds, red wine reduction, and rye bread.  The rioja “picnic” includes artisan meats, warm pine nut crusted goat cheese, gorgonzola, olives, fennel salad, orange confit, and almonds.  And the roasted beets include blood orange, black sesame tahini, sweet potato, and mustard greens.  All were good.

Several people order the artichoke tortelloni after the waitress informed the table that it was the James Beard Award-Winning dish.  The artichoke tortelloni was made with artichoke mousse, white truffle brodo, queso de mano, and chervil.  Those that followed the waitresses recommendation raved about the dish.

The other great thing about Rioja is the bread service.  They come around to your table with a giant bread basket and let you pick multiple selections.  The best selections are the mini-biscuits and lavender sourdough.  It is a really nice touch.

The verdict: Rioja is a wonderful spot with really great food.  It is perfect for both a date or for a nice dinner.


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