Where to Eat While Black Friday Shopping

CHOLON Lon Symensma’s sophisticated southeast Asian bistro stands out amid the fast-casual and street-food kiosks in this area with an ever-evolving menu anchored by a few icons, including the French onion soup dumplings, that’ll warm your soul no matter the weather outside.”

Where to Eat While Black Friday Shopping

5280 Magazine - The 25 Best Restaurants in Denver 2018

“French onion soup dumplings. Pork ribs, sticky with lemongrass glaze, paired with a crunchy green papaya salad. Rack of Colorado lamb with charred eggplant purée and spiced chickpeas. Mussels swimming in a spicy green curry, with fried garlic bao alongside to mop up every drop. These perfectly rendered dishes, among so many others on ChoLon’s Pan-Asian menu, highlight chef-owner Lon Symensma’s talent for taking sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami flavors into fine-dining territory. The eight-year-old restaurant updated its decor and improved its acoustics this summer, but with young gun chef de cuisine Becca Henry at the wok, ChoLon’s food is the same as it’s always been: brilliant.”

5280 Magazine – The 25 Best Restaurants in Denver 2018

20 Iconic Chefs in Denver & Boulder (in no particular order)

“In 2010, following a lucrative cooking career in New York City, Iowa native Lon Symensma arrived in Denver. His mission? Open ChoLon, a restaurant that symbolized the foods he’d experienced during his numerous eating expeditions throughout Southeast Asia and China. By his own admission, it took some time for ChoLon to resonate with Denver diners, but Symensma, idolized for his signature soup dumplings, poetic plate artistry, and fearless flavor combinations, persevered, eventually making ChoLon one of the most sought-after reservations in the city. Along with ChoLon, Symensma owns Cho77, a captivating lyric to the street foods of Southeast Asia. His latest venture, Concourse, is now open in the Eastbridge Town Center Stapleton development and he plans to open a casual Asian concept in Avanti later this summer. As for additional future projects, Symensma’s head is spinning with concepts: “I want to do a Mediterranean restaurant that follows the same idea as ChoLon, but instead of Southeast Asia, I want this to represent Spain, Italy, France, Greece, and Northern Africa. I’ve also got a Latin concept in the works that focuses on Central and South American cooking, and I’m planning on doing an elevated Middle Eastern concept.””

20 Iconic Chefs in Denver & Boulder (in no particular order)

The 25 Best Restaurants in Denver, 2017 - 5280 Magazine

“I am always surprised to meet locals who don’t know about ChoLon, Lon Symensma’s seven-year-old Asian restaurant in LoDo. Even during this time in which the cultural appropriation of food is debated and tweeted and judged (and rightly so), I say this loud and clear: You’ve gotta try this white boy’s food. Symensma’s a perfectionist, and his travels through Southeast Asia translate to vibrant Pan-Asian fare. If you are familiar with ChoLon, you know no meal is complete without at least one order of the French onion soup dumplings. The diminutive pillows of broth and dough—a scrumptious twist on the classic—are as fine as you’ll find in any Chinatown on the coasts. After you place your dumpling order, assembling a meal from the dinner menu (many of the same items are also available at lunch) is an adventure. If I had to design my dream ChoLon lineup, it would include the kaya toast, which marries coconut-jam-slathered-and-brûléed bread batons with an airy, savory custard—luscious is the only word to describe it. Next, I’d ask for the rich pork belly bao. Then lobster crêpes with nuoc cham and fresh herbs (a palate cleanser of sorts)…and every dish from the wok station. Seriously. The “wok hay” (that pitch-perfect flavor that comes from proper stir-fry technique) Symensma and Becca Henry, his chef de cuisine, achieve would make any wok-yielding cook proud.”

The 25 Best Restaurants in Denver, 2017 – 5280 Magazine

5280 Magazine - Denver’s 25 Best Restaurants 2016

“In 2010, Lon Symensma traded New York City for Denver because he craved the Colorado lifestyle and recognized that our burgeoning dining scene was on the verge of exploding. In the years since, Symensma has used ChoLon as a way to educate and challenge diners on the topic of modern Southeast Asian cuisine. He has won us over with intensely colorful, vibrant, and thrilling dishes that pull insight and inspiration from near and far. Take the tandoori lamb chops with caramelized yogurt and biryani, or the okonomiyaki-esque dancing scallops with a sweet corn pancake and bonito flakes that ripple in the steam. Symensma’s dishes function as a microcosm of the chef himself: Colorado flair combined with far-flung influences.”

5280 Magazine – Denver’s 25 Best Restaurants 2016

5280 Magazine - 25 Best Restaurants 2015

“Lon Symensma, ChoLon’s executive chef and co-owner, doesn’t want to color within the lines. His food is fragrant with the exotic spices of Southeast Asia, and you’ll detect influences from Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and even China. Symensma channels the region’s robust cuisines to dream up dishes all his own. Recent menus, though, indicate a subtle nod to the West: a heavenly green curry béarnaise sauce drapes Colorado wagyu beef; Chinese black vinegar offsets a salad of strawberries, mizuna, and futuristic goat cheese spheres. Even if Symensma is tweaking the ChoLon formula slightly, there’s no doubt he continues to be a whiz at bringing texture, color, and dazzling, exotic flavors to his diners.”

5280 Magazine – 25 Best Restaurants 2015

What to Order at the Best Restaurants in Denver

“While chef Lon Symensma’s reverence to innovative Asian cuisine hits all the right notes, ChoLon’s beautiful soup dumplings, their wiggly-jiggly centers an eruption of sweet onions, steaming juice and melted Gruyère, may be the best single bite in the Mile High City.”

What to Order at the Best Restaurants in Denver


5280 Magazine - 25 Best Restaurants 2014

“To experience ChoLon is to see—and taste—a kitchen in constant motion. Executive chef and co-owner Lon Symensma’s flavors stay true to Southeast Asia’s quintessential hot, sour, salty, sweet, and herbaceous notes, but he continuously pushes the cuisine in new and wildly creative directions. Take a recent dish of grilled calamari, avocado, heirloom tomatoes, and lemongrass dressing. The simple combination hardly sounds like ChoLon—until you take a bite and the flavors and textures come together to reflect the region. This is classic Symensma: Every thought-out ingredient not only meshes with the next, but it’s also part of a modern story of a far-away place. At ChoLon, you’re guaranteed a dining experience that is surprising and delightful—and ever-evolving.”

5280 Magazine – 25 Best Restaurants 2014

5280 Magazine - 25 Best Restaurants 2013

“Mention ChoLon to a group of friends and someone will instantly reference the soup dumplings. Intended or not, chef Lon Symensma has staked his reputation—and ChoLon’s—on those beautifully wrapped pockets of sweet onion soup and Gruyère cheese. But to only know ChoLon by the dumplings would be an oversight. The pork belly buns are a fully evolved street snack, with artistic dollops of hoisin and unctuous slabs of pork belly slathered with sesame-honey glaze. The steamed buns themselves are doughy, chewy—perfect. Likewise, the Singapore chicken rice will entice you with shreds of poached chicken, tangles of cooling cucumber steeped in the aroma of coconuty-citrusy pandan leaves, and a bowl of fiery sambal for mixing in. Simplicity is not in Symensma’s vocabulary as he applies layer after layer of flavor and technique to balance sweet and savory, hot and cool, Old World and New—to enchanting effect.”

5280 Magazine – 25 Best Restaurants 2013

Westword Top of the Town - Best Chef

“If the kitchen is a stage, then Lon Symensma, chef-owner of ChoLon, is its undisputed star. He exudes extraordinary verve and charisma behind — and beyond — the line, and there’s no end to his experimental innovation and bedazzling flavors and textures. But even more important is his endless pursuit of perfection, evident in every dish he creates, plates and tastes before it’s whisked from the kitchen. He leaves absolutely nothing to chance, cooking with precision and finesse, standing guard over his troops and exposing his soul in every sauce, glaze, skewer, dumpling, potsticker and egg cloud that touches your lips. This is the kind of restaurant — and Symensma is the kind of chef — that makes you want to drop everything you’re doing and just surrender to delicious temptation.”

Westword Top of the Town – Best Chef