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

Westword Top of the Town - Best Overall Wine List

“Nothing’s worse than getting all fired up for a decadent, wine-soaked meal, only to discover that the restaurant’s wine list is a total snooze. That’s why we woke up and took notice last fall when ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro opened. The array of sixty-plus modern selections (including eight sake offerings) might make you scratch your head initially (Côtes-du-Rhône? Chilean sauvignon gris?). But chef Lon Symensma and his wine director, Chris Todd, make sure that each wine on the list is a perfect foil for one of ChoLon’s tongue-tingling flavor combinations. The only thing that makes fans of both food and the grape happier than a stellar wine-and-dine experience is a stellar wine-and-dine experience at decent prices, and at ChoLon, you can score a kickass bottle for an average price of $48. We’ll drink to that.”

Westword Top of the Town – Best Overall Wine List

5280 Review: ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro

“Last fall, when Lon Symensma opened ChoLon, his upscale homage to Southeast Asian cuisine, local foodies rejoiced. Here was a chef with pedigree—his resumé includes Spice Market and Buddakan in New York, Jean Georges Shanghai, and Michelin-starred restaurants in France and Spain—who chose Denver as home for his first restaurant. It was hard knowing what to be more excited about: what ChoLon was going to offer, or what the restaurant’s arrival said about Denver’s dining scene.”

5280 Review: ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro

Round two with Lon Symensma, exec chef of ChoLon

“This is part two of my interview with Lon Symensma, executive chef of ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro.

Favorite restaurant in America: Jean Georges. It’s been one of New York City’s four-star restaurants for years, and you’ll always have an unforgettable meal there. Jean-Georges is French, but trained in the Asian realm, and he was one of the first chefs to lighten things up — using lemongrass-infused broth and fresh juices, for example, instead of butter and high-caloric cream. It’s a very cool and chic restaurant, not stuffy, and the waiters know the food really well, and Jean-Georges is just a really cool, well-rounded guy. I’m very proud to have worked there with that level of talent.”

Round two with Lon Symensma, exec chef of ChoLon