It seemed appropriate to visit Urban Village for our Travel issue. After all, it’s an Indian restaurant, and its unassuming locale in a Park Meadows shopping center requires a trip from the heart of Denver south to the I-25/470 junction.
Happily, it’s well worth the journey. Affable owner Ramesh Madakasira, a Silicon Valley engineer from a small town in southern India, has created something of the anti-Indian standard. There’s no lunch buffet but instead a grab-and-go selection of $8 wraps and $9 bowls. And the dinner menu is just a page.
“Many times I go to an Indian restaurant and am intimidated by the giant menu,” Madakasira says. “And I’m from India!”
When it comes to the menu, Executive Chef Charles Mani prefers quality over quantity. He was something of a legend in New York City for his crispy cauliflower tossed with tomato chili oil ($9) and his butter chicken ($16). His Classic Coconut Curry ($18 with charred prawns or $15 with roasted butternut squash) had guests at our table scraping the bowl.
“A lot of people think of Indian food as spicy and heavy with a lot of cream,” says Mani. “I want to change that perception with my food. We spend hours developing the spices and layering flavors in a delicious and light way.”
The 24-Hour Dal Makhani ($13), roasted lentils, is a great example. Its deep, sophisticated flavor emerges as it cooks constantly in the kitchen, where the crew (visible through a large window) seems to work serenely.
The atmosphere at Urban Village matches its name, with a contemporary design featuring traditional, rustic touches that make it conducive to leisurely dining. On first visit, spring for the chef tasting menu ($39 per person). Mani will bring out appetizers one at a time for your table, then you’ll take a little break before each guest is served a stunning array of five entreés, each served in a small steel bowl arranged on a large platter with breads, rice, and raita.
The tasting menu brought us our new guilty pleasures: the irresistible, addictive Kale Moong Dal Chaat ($8 à la carte), crispy kale topped with Indian seasonings and sauces, and Cardamom Pistachio Kulfi ($5). Mani calls himself the ice cream king, and the creamy, not-too-sweet kulfi testifies to that.
That’s a fresh, new finish to a fresh, new option for Indian food lovers. And, Urban Village isn’t in Denver, so there’s plenty of parking.
9234 Park Meadows Drive, Ste. 700
When RiNo’s much-loved new American restaurant The Populist vacated its corner perch on 32nd and Larimer late last summer, the neighborhood mourned. After a seven-year run charming Denverites with its casually hip, approachable vibe, The Populist left its successor with lots of choosy locals to satisfy. The project that swooped in, Mister Oso—an offshoot of the Highlands’ wildly successful Señor Bear—has so far seemed equal to the task.
Mister Oso is branded with the tagline “cebiche, tacos, smoke,” which tells the story of the menu fairly well. The little dishes like the guacamole ($9) and queso ($9) are simple but irresistible, the former jazzed up with a Mayan pumpkin seed paste, the latter with chorizo verde and pepitas. The cebiche and crudos include an aguachile with gulf fish ($17) and a fancy shrimp cocktail ($17), but the real standout is the Albacore Tuna ($18), which manages a rewarding balance of acid and heat: grapefruit and a smoky marinade made with ginger mezcal.
The real reason to visit Mister Oso, though, is the tacos. Some favorites on a recent visit included the Carne Asada ($10.50) with chimichurri and roasted garlic, the Lamb Barbacoa ($11.50), and the maddeningly rich Crispy Pig Salad ($16)—a heaping of pork tail smothered in tamarind glaze and piled with green papaya, macadamia nuts, and crispy shoots of pig ear that add a deep, satisfying crunch.
3163 Larimer St.