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

The 25 Best Restaurants in Denver, 2017

“It’s a wonderful thing when established Denver chefs entice their talented friends to move to the Mile High City, adding out-of-town experience, skills, and palates to our evolving dining scene. That’s the heart of the story behind the collaboration of Lon Symensma (ChoLon) and Luke Bergman, who left Miami, after stints at the Modern and Aureole in New York City, to run the kitchen at Symensma’s five-month-old Stapleton restaurant, Concourse. The day-to-night New American eatery is ambitious, but Bergman’s ethereal pastas; expertly plancha-seared and grilled seafood, meats, and vegetables; and seductive sauces come together under Concourse’s wavelike walnut ceiling for a sophisticated dining experience we should all be grateful for, no matter which neighborhood we call home.”

The 25 Best Restaurants in Denver, 2017

Denver's 9 Sexiest New Restaurants and Bars

“It’s all about the undulating, up-lit ceiling. Essentially a hanging sculpture of wooden waves, it almost seems to be gently washing over you even as you bathe in the glow of Concourse’s LIVstudio-designed dining room in Stapleton. And the sense of immersion in warmth extends to the menu — elegant as chef-partner Luke Bergman’s New American cuisine is, there’s a heartiness that makes you want to dive right in with someone.”

Denver’s 9 Sexiest New Restaurants and Bars

Best Thing We Ate This Week: Arugula Sorbet (yes, really) at Concourse

“‘I just had the best arugula sorbet of my life!’ I excitedly announced to my husband after returning home from Concourse, Lon Symensma’s new restaurant in Stapleton’s Eastbridge development.

Granted, it didn’t really have much competition, having never eaten another arugula sorbet before and all (or even knowing such a thing existed). But oh, the passion it inspired! We’re talking I-wanna-die-with-you-Wendy-on-the-streets-tonight-in-an-everlasting-kiss style passion, all over arugula sorbet.”

Best Thing We Ate This Week: Arugula Sorbet (yes, really) at Concourse

ChoLon chef opens first non-Asian concept, launches restaurant group

Lon Symensma, the chef behind Denver’s most acclaimed Asian restaurants, is widening his portfolio with an American-style eatery opening Wednesday that will be the first concept in his newly formed restaurant group.

ChoLon chef opens first non-Asian concept, launches restaurant group

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