Few culinary experiences are more satisfying than a leisurely dim sum lunch, and at ChoLon, dim sum is elevated to an art form. ChoLon, which means “big market” in Vietnamese, is helmed by Chef Lon Symensma, whose ability to translate the tastes, textures, and stories of the Far East into stunningly composed dishes has launched the restaurant into the gastronomic stratosphere in Denver and beyond.
On a recent Saturday morning, my editor and I opted to dine on Symensma’s dumplings at ChoLon Central Park, where a weekend dim sum menu offers a range of small bites and large plates. The dishes showcase the essence of traditional Asian cuisine with a modern twist, emphasizing bold, umami-rich flavors.
The General Cho’s soup dumplings are one-bite delights, warm and comforting with a subtle ginger kick. The edamame dumplings were an unexpected highlight of our meal, their complex flavor profile balancing robust truffle with a kick of wasabi. But perhaps the most iconic dish at ChoLon is the French onion soup dumpling, which transforms the classic soup into a novel bite. The rich, piping hot broth mingles with sweet, caramelized onions and velvety Gruyère cheese, all encased in a delicate dumpling wrapper resulting in an orchestra of tastes and textures, a blend of the familiar with something delightfully new. Symensma explains that these are the culmination of his culinary journey wrapped in one dish—and the best representation of his cooking style. “I absolutely fell in love with the art and craft of dumplings,” Symensma says. “The French onion soup dumplings are a fusion of cultures, flavors, and techniques that I’ve picked up along the way.” The chef grew up trained in European cooking styles, and cut his culinary molars during stints at Michelin-starred restaurants in France, Italy, and Spain before moving to Shanghai to help his mentor Jean-Georges Vongerichten open an outpost. His talents led him back to New York City to helm the kitchen at Buddakan, but it was his move to Denver and the opening of ChoLon’s flagship restaurant downtown in 2010 that really allowed his creative flair to shine. “ChoLon’s menu is and always has been inspired by my travels and time working and exploring abroad,” says Symensma. “I’ve taken the food and experiences home and reinterpreted them into something that is unique to me but still keeps the integrity of the original dish.”