Okay, so here's the thing. We're approaching 4 months on the road (6 months living in the van) and we've really missed getting our Chinese food fix. You see, when we lived in Birmingham, Alabama, we almost always ate Chinese after St. Andrew's services on Sunday. And Red Pearl was our go-to place to get it.
I'll admit here and now, we took Red Pearl for granted. I know I read somewhere that it is either one of Frank Stitt's favorite restaurants in Birmingham or his favorite or his favorite Chinese. Regardless, it was on his alleged recommendation we began eating there. Back before they expanded the restaurant and when they could seat maybe 20 or so people at a time. For us, everything else Chinese pretty much paled by comparison.
We figured as we began our travels finding Chinese on Sundays after Melanie finished church services wouldn't be too difficult. Wrong. We ate a fair amount of pretty badly prepared Chinese food before we pretty much gave up trying to find it.
We'd been in Denver for a few days when Melanie suggested we once again attempt to find Chinese food for after Sunday services. My first choice, after reading reviews of the "Ten Best Chinese" restaurants in Denver via a Google search was Hop Alley. The reviewer had me at bone marrow fried rice.
So, after services this past Sunday, I attempted to meet Melanie at Hop Alley. Closed on Sunday. Not sure why I didn't call to make sure, but okay. So we left Hop Alley and traveled to my second choice, specifically to eat Dim Sum, Star Kitchen.
I could see as we arrived at Star Kitchen people were waiting outside the restaurant. By this time, it was approaching 2:00 in the afternoon. I told Melanie I'd check to see what kind of wait there was. As I entered the restaurant, there were probably 20 or so people standing outside the door with 10 more standing or seated inside. I asked a gentleman standing nearby about the wait time. "One hour," he said. I quickly looked to my right whereupon the Asian gentleman with which I locked eyes volunteered, "It's that good."
We were both a bit hangry and an hour was just a bit over way too long. We ate elsewhere and decided to travel back to Star Kitchen on Wednesday when our newly minted friend, Kathy, would be in town from Santa Fe. Wednesday came around and I called to find out when Star Kitchen began serving dinner. Star Kitchen is closed on Wednesdays.
Stymied again, but I quickly called Hop Alley, my first choice Sunday past. Hop Alley begins service at 5:30 and, yes, I should make a reservation, which I did.
Hop Alley is located in a great older neighborhood in the River North Art District of Denver. They can seat 57 including the bar. A reservation is generally advised. It can get a bit noisy once the restaurant fills, but it's a great spot where, it appears, locals love to eat.
Since I'm no restaurant critic, I'll let Scott Mobray of Denver's 5280 magazine tell it.
I was a quarter of the way into an eight-dish, seven-person feast at Hop Alley in RiNo when I waved my chopsticks—with which I had pincered two slippery disks of Shanghai rice cake, each bathed in oyster sauce and dotted with bits of chewy pork—and remarked to my wife, “I think this may be the best food I’ve eaten in Denver in the past year.” She cocked an eyebrow, for few things get me as giddy as a good Asian meal.
So, yeah, we finally found our great Chinese food fix, or Chinese fusion, but regardless, a really fine meal was had by the three of us.
Not sure how often the Hop Alley menu changes, but our meal consisted of Yen Tsai- pickled & preserved veggies; Sicuan Rabbit- green peppercorn, daikon, baby bok choy; and Zha Jiang Mian- ground pork, vegetables, dio mio noodles, egg; and Hop Alley Fried Rice- bone marrow edition. More than enough for three with left-overs waiting in Miranda's fridge. And the wine selection by the glass is not too shabby either.