I used to love to go to Cherry Creek, wander the green-carpeted book-filled halls of Tattered Cover, satiate my gluttonous appetite with a huge prawn burrito covered in homemade salsa from Chez Jose and amble down to my favorite sign-less basement bar (and one of my favorite bars ever), The RooBar. I can't count how many times I did all those things in that exact order. Now to do all that I need to start on East Colfax, drive down University (through Cherry Creek) to Centennial and then get back in my car to finish off the night with a traffic-filled drive to the wasteland where Park turns into 38th around I-25.
Cherry Creek, over the last five years or so has slowly become void of economically and culturally diverse options, driving out the budget-seeking regular guy in favor of the middle-age BMW-type with a penchant for tying sweaters loosely around his neck.
There are, of course, exceptions. I recently wrote about Ondo's Tapas which brings authentic Spanish cooking to the Creek without any Lexus-only parking. Also good to see still surviving (and growing) is the Cherry Cricket. More recently is the arrival of Pinche Tacos at the farmer's market, but that will be gone again in October. And then there is Tambien.
Likely there is a zoning ordinance in Cherry Creek that two Mexican-themed restaurants cannot operate within any two or three block radius of each other. And did you ever wonder why the Mexican embassy moved out? But in all seriousness, it is probably Tambien's more extensive menu, bigger bar and more clever kitsch decorating that brings them enough revenue to pay the Creek's high-priced rents that drove out Chez Jose. And with all of my skepticism and yuppie-angst aside, Tambien really is smartly decorated, friendly and inviting.
I have avoided going to Tambien for the last few years primarily because of my anti-Creek-ness following the closing of the Tattered Cover and the RooBar. But after Ondo's lured me back and Chez Jose closed, I wanted to see what this DINR member restaurant had to offer (plus I had my wife's handy DINR coupons). My biggest concern going into Tambien is that they would Cherry-Creek the Mexican right out of the food.
The first thing I tried stood up and slapped me in my face with Mexican flavor, although with an appropriate and satisfying twist. It was the Ahi Tuna ceviche, marinated in lime--but I think also some lemon, which took that acrid bite out of the traditional Mexican ceviche (which I like as well), making it sweeter and smoother from first bite to finish. It was still made with the typical Pico de Gallo salsa, and my only complaint is that there was not a lot of fish mixed in. I also liked that they served it with tortilla chips (that tasted homemade) instead of the Mexican tradition of two-per-package Saltine crackers.
Also the Shrimp Cocktail, which was served with the two-packs of Saltines and was quite good itself. The giant shrimp were well cooked and the traditional tomato-based cocktail sauce with big chunks of fresh avocado was so authentic it immediately evoked images in my head of sitting on a beach bar on a semi-desolated beach in Mexico.
Another thing that brought me back to lazing around in a hammock in that same beach town was sipping on my michelada. A michelada, if you don't know, is a beer mixed with lime juice and served over ice with a drizzling of salt. I love beer. I really do. And I know some beer enthusiasts will cringe at the thought of beer over ice, or beer with a cup of lime juice in it-- or any alteration of this beloved beverage, but the reality of it is that beer cocktails are very underrated and the michelada is the king (or the queen) of beer cocktails. I've always loved Tambien's sister restaurant, Mezcal, because they serve a great michelada (and the michelada cubana-- essentially a beer Bloody Mary) and I'm glad to see that Tambien does them as well.
With another Tecate came my red mole. The sauce itself was very good, not the richest and most complex of moles, but with a nice flavor and depth nonetheless. Served over two big chicken thighs and legs and topped off with sesame seeds, it was a lovely presentation as well. The chicken was horribly dry and tough on one of my thighs (guessing that it had been re-heated more than once) but besides that it was a solid mole, which is something not so easy to find in Denver.
For brunch once I got the chilaquiles. Chilaquiles is a great-- maybe one of the perfect-- brunch items and storied hangover cures. Traditionally this is a dish made from fried tortillas soaked in chile sauce and covered in onion, sour cream, egg and/or chicken. The Tambien version is non-traditional for two reasons: scrambled eggs and heat.
Although my eggs were perfectly scrambled (seriously some of the better scrambled eggs I have had in a long time), and I devoured my entire generously portioned plate, Chilaquiles should come with over-easy fried eggs. Part of the hangover (crudo) curing properties are in the egg-yolk goop, while the other part comes from the spiciness. These chilaquiles were definitely made for the mild-mannered, non-crudo'd Cherry Creek regulars, and while I understand that not everyone likes heat, these were so spice-less they were sweet. Luckily I was not hungover and luckily they brought me this huge array of hot sauces that I poured liberally over my plate.
The fish tacos at Tambien could be their signature dish and could quickly become a favorite of mine. Grilled tilapia with pickled onions and a delicious mayo-chipotle-type sauce over what looked and tasted like homemade corn tortillas.
Tambien has an extensive menu and these trips of mine were just a small sampling of what they have to offer. There seems to be a nice mix of authentic dishes and creative interpretations. Everything I ate was good, except the chilaquiles, and all of it was universally mild in spice. The latter point is a little annoying to me, but I understand that spice likely doesn't survive long in Cherry Creek, and while the diverse hot sauce rack does a little to make up for it, how hard would it be to offer spicy and mild options on some dishes? (Not hard, if you're really wondering.) Nevertheless, Tambien is a great place to enjoy some good food and drink and I will be back.
One thing I have noticed in Cherry Creek is the high amount of prime store-front space now abandoned. Hopefully this will bring prices down and some diversity will return. Until then, there is the diverse subterranean space occupied by Ondo's, and its neighbor Tambien.
11N (1) A Federal Case (1) A Taste of the Philippines (1) Acapulco Tacos (1) Ace Eat Serve (1) adobo (1) Adrian Miller (1) aguas frescas (2) Al Lado (1) Al's Beef (1) alambre (4) Ali Baba Grill (1) All-V's (1) arepas (4) Argentina (2) art (1) asada (2) Aurora (5) authentic (1) Award (1) bacon (1) bagel (1) Bailey (1) bakery (1) baklava (1) baleadas (2) Ban Thai (1) barbacoa (3) baseball (5) Basil Doc's (1) BBQ (2) beer (2) bibimbob (1) Biker Jim (1) birria (1) biscuit (2) Bistro Vendome (1) Bonnie Brae Tavern (1) books (1) Boulder (3) Boulder International Film Festival (1) Bourdain (1) breakfast (3) breakfast for dinner (1) breakfast tacos (1) brunch (2) Brussels sprouts (1) Buffalo wings (2) buffet (1) Bun Hanoi (1) burger (3) burrito (7) Bánh mì (2) cabeza (2) Cafe de Tacuba (1) Cafe La Habana (1) Cafe San Juan (1) camping (1) Canada (1) Carl Sandburg (1) carne en su jugo (2) carne seca (1) carnitas (2) Cava (1) cecina (1) ceviche (1) change (1) charal (1) chica morada (1) Chicago (9) Chicago Louie's (1) Chicago Style (1) chicarron (3) chicharron (2) chicken skin (1) chilaquiles (4) Chile (3) chiles en nogada (1) Chili Verde (1) chimbolo (1) Chinese (2) Chinese New Year (1) chorizo (4) chorrillana (1) Christmas (1) churros (2) cinco de mayo (2) CLOSED (6) coffee (3) Colorado Springs (1) Colt and Grey (1) Coney Island (1) contest (8) crab (1) crawfish (1) crispchon (1) Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria (1) Cuban sandwich (7) cupcakes (1) curry (1) Cypress Hill (1) Dancing Noodle (1) deep dish (1) deli (1) Deluxe (4) Denveater (7) Denver Biscuit Company (1) Denver County Fair (2) dessert (2) Dim Sum (1) diner (1) DINR (7) discada (1) dolmades (1) Domo (1) donuts (1) dreams (1) duck curry (1) dumplings (2) durian (1) EatDenver (2) El Boricua (1) El Camaron Loco (1) El Costeno (1) El Diablo (2) El Divino (1) El Fogon (1) el guero tortero (1) El Olvido (2) El Paisa (3) El Pariaso (1) El Rico Dicho (1) El Salvador (2) El Taco Rey (1) El Tamarindo (1) El Tizoncito (1) elote (1) Emapanda Express Grill (1) Empanada Express Grill (1) empanadas (7) enchiladas (1) enchiladas mineras (1) Encore (1) epicurious (1) Ernie's Bar (1) Euclid Hall (1) event (1) Evergreen (1) falafel (1) Filipino (7) film (6) fire (1) First Friday (1) fish tacos (2) flan (1) flyfishing (1) food truck (7) food cart (6) football (2) French (2) fried chicken (2) fried tacos (1) frijoles charros (1) Frijoles Colorado (1) Fritangas (1) frito pie (5) frybread (1) G6 (1) gallo pinto (1) garnachas (1) Gastro Cart (1) Gaudalajara Authentic Mexican Buffet (1) Globeville (1) Golden (1) good Mexican food (10) good signs (5) gorditas (1) Grandma's Korean BBQ (2) Greek (1) Greek Town (1) green chile (12) gyro (4) Halo-Halo (1) Harvest Week (1) Hi Rise (1) Honduran food (1) hot dog (5) huarache (4) Huerfano Cafe (1) Hush (1) Hutch and Spoon (1) Ian Kleinman (3) ice cream (1) Indian taco (1) itacates (1) Italian beef (5) Italian-American (2) Jabo's (1) Jack-n-Grill (1) James Mazzio (2) Japanese (1) Jax (1) Jiutepec (1) Jollibee (1) Jonsey's Eat Bar (1) kabob (1) Kaladi (1) Kavkaz Bakery (1) kids (2) King's Land (1) Korean BBQ (3) La Cascada (1) La Chapina (1) La Flor de Michoacan (1) La Loncheria Mexicana (1) La Mexicana Taqueria (1) lamb (2) Lao Wang Noodle House (1) Las Torgtugas (2) Las Tortas (1) Laughing Ladies (1) LDP (2) Le Trompeau (1) Leandro Cristobal (1) lechón (5) lengua (1) Leobardo's (1) LoHi (1) lonchera (7) longaniza (2) Los Angeles (1) Los Carboncitos (1) Los Farolitos (2) Los Gallitos (1) Los Toritos (1) Lou Malnati's (1) lox (1) lumpia (2) lunch (2) machaca (1) Mama D's (1) Mama Tere (1) mango (1) Map (1) Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria (1) mariachi (1) Martin Rios (1) Masterpiece Deli (1) Maxwell Street (1) mayonnaise (1) Mexican Canoli (1) Mexican hot dog (1) Mexico City (8) Mexico City Restaurant and Lounge (1) michelada (2) Middle Eastern (6) Mile High Vienna Beef (1) molcajete (1) mole (8) Monte Vista (1) Motulenos (1) Mulli (1) Museo de las Americas (2) mushrooms (1) mussels (1) Navajo taco (1) New Mexican (3) New Siagon (1) Nicaragua (2) nitrogen (1) Nonna's (1) NOT CLOSED (1) old school (1) Ondo's (1) Operation Front Line (2) Orange Crunch (1) Oscar's (1) Osteria Marco (1) oysters (1) paleta (1) pan dulce (5) Panaderia Rosales (1) pancit (2) Parallel 17 (1) Park Burger (1) pastries (1) Patricia Quintana (1) Patriotic Independence Gathering (1) pepper and egg (1) Peruvian (1) Philippines (3) pho (3) Pho 77 (1) Pho Duy II (1) Phoenician Kabob (2) Piccolo's (1) Pinche Tacos (2) Pinche Taqueria (1) pizza (9) Planet Barbecue (1) poblano (1) pollo a las brasas (2) Pomfreet (1) pork (3) poutine (2) pozole (1) pronunciation (1) Puebla (1) Puerto Rico (1) pupusa (5) quesillo (1) recipe (6) Recovery Room (1) Red Tango (1) rice and beans (3) Richard Sandoval (1) Riki Takaoka (1) Rise and Shine (1) roast pig (2) Rosca de Reyes (1) Route 40 (1) Russia (1) Sabor de Mexico (1) Salida (3) salty lemonade (1) Santa Fe (1) sausage (5) seafood (4) Seattle (1) shawarma (2) shrimp cocktail (1) Silla (1) Simpsons (1) smothered (7) sope (1) South American (1) southern colorado (8) Starz Denver Film Festival (3) Steven Raichlen (1) Stevo's (1) street food (9) strip malls (1) Studio F (2) stuffed (1) suadero (1) Sub sandwich (1) Sue of Siam (1) summer food truck boom (3) Sunburst Grill (1) sushi (1) sweets (2) Table 6 (3) taco al pastor list (2) taco arabe (1) taco truck (8) taco vampiro (1) Taco Veloz (2) TacoMex (1) tacos al pastor (34) tacos al vapor (4) Tacos Copacabana (1) tacos de canasta (1) tacos de trompa (1) tacos dorados (1) Tacos el Chorizo (1) Tacos El Gordo (2) Tacos El Sampa (1) Tacos Junior (2) Tacos Tijuana (1) Tacos y Salsas (2) Taiwanese (1) tamales (3) Tambien (3) tapas (2) Taqueria el Valle Aurora (1) Taqueria el Valle Denver (1) tarta (1) Taste of Chicago (1) Taste of the Nation (2) Teleras (1) Telluride (1) Tepotzlan (1) teriyaki (1) Thai (5) Thai Avenue (1) Thai Flavor (1) The Bagel Deli (1) The Berkshire (1) The Biscuit Bus (1) The Corner Office (1) The Inventing Room (1) The Red Claw (1) Thornton (1) Ticorito (1) Tin Star Cafe Donut Haus (1) Tocabe (1) Toluca (1) Toluca Mexican Restaurant (3) tongue (1) torta (5) torta ahogada (2) torta Cubana (1) torta de tamal (1) Torta Grill (2) torta poblana (1) tortilla (1) Tortisimas (1) travel (14) Tres Pupusas (1) truffle fries (1) Turtux (1) Udi's (2) US Thai (1) Utah scones (1) Venezuelan (2) Victoria (1) Vietnamese (3) vietnamese sandwich (1) vigaron (1) Walsenburg (1) Westword Best Food Blog (1) whiskey (2) Willy's Buffalo Style Hot Wings (1) Xiao Long Bao (2) yuca (1) zombies (1) Zorbas (1)