Sunday, June 22, 2014

Happy Hour With Toddlers: Pikka's of Cherry Creek

I have documented and commented on Cherry Creek North's downward spiral into mediocrity (albeit expensive mediocrity) before, and it has continued with the closing of the neighborhood's arguable best restaurant, Ondo's Tapas. But mediocrity is not just limited to the eroding restaurant scene that has quickly transformed Cherry creek into an irrelevant stop on Denver's otherwise booming food scene. Other small, long-time retailers continue to shutter their doors, like the recent closing of Kazoo toys, whose original location will undoubtedly be replaced by more box-cutter condos or another doldrum restaurant catering to the moderately rich and advancingly middle aged.

My family and I were here to pick up some goods at the nearby indoor retail space, which was depressingly busy considering the sunny skies and near perfect temperatures outside. We decided it would be a good idea to stroll the neighborhood and at least stop by the Public Library to see if it too had been razed, being that it is one of the last places left in those parts where the riff-raff of the upper middle class and below can loiter. We emerged an hour later with a pile Spanish toddler literature, and stumbled upon Pikka's.


I had read about Pikka's and its sister restaurant Taita when they opened, but being so happy with my beloved Pisco Sour Restaurant and Longue, I had never bothered to check them out. We were lured in not only by the thought of a fresh ceviche but also because it was 5pm and we were just in time for happy hour. 

Pikka's had the look of a place that we would not dine in under most circumstances with our two toddlers, so happy hour in an otherwise empty restaurant was probably a perfect time. Indeed, Friday happy hour has become our new favorite family time. And while many other 'nice' restaurants only seem 'OK' with it when you roll in with two toddlers, the folks at Pikka's seemed genuinely happy. From the beginning we were treated to exceptional service and the most welcoming of attitudes.  



We immediately relaxed after feeling so welcome here, and with our boys engrossed in a book about  their lofty dream profession of being garbage men, my wife and I settled back to enjoy a Pisco Sour and a fresh draft beer, respectively. 



The food specials for the happy hour were quite impressive, both in the discount and the representativeness of the overall menu. We started with a round of croquettes that were exceptionally light and airy as well as perfectly crisp, and filled with a nicely flavored ground beef. This quickly became our boy's favorite and we happily handed it off to them and dug into the ceviche. 



The ceviche was Mahi Mahi with cilantro, onion, lime and not much else. It was quite good partly because it was so simple, and came with the typical slice of boiled sweet potato and yucca which both go quite well just about anything. 


The Peruvian Paella was the next plate we dove into and it did not skimp on the good stuff. Each bite was packed with grilled seafood of some sort: shrimp, calamari, octopus or baby scallops. There was no crispy burned rice goodness you might expect from a Spanish paella, but it was a good bowl of seafood rice. Very good indeed. 


The menu listed out next dish as a chicken salad with yellow potatoes and avocado but our server recommended we sub in crab, which we happily did. It came out in a circular stack which looked deceptively like a cake. Our boys immediately dropped their croquetas and dug into this crab salad "cake" only to be sorely disappointed and return, unsatisfied, to their wonderful potato beef dish. We too, were a little disappointed in this dish, but I think maybe because we had the strong flavors of ceviche and arroz con mariscos that this dish, subtly flavored, and cold-- fell flat. On its own, with a clean palate, I imagine it would have been quite a bit different. 


Still not completely full we finished our afternoon meal with a beautiful beef lomo over a bed of fried potatoes and rice topped with grilled tomatoes. It was absolutely divine. The meat was cooked wonderfully and the bed of mashed potatoes was mixed with rice and all somehow fried together so that the outer layer was slightly crispy. On top of it all were grilled tomato slices and a rich, beefy broth. Absolutely the best plate of the afternoon. 


Pikka's is one of a few places that has opened over the past few years that offers some sabor to the otherwise dreary and plain Cherry Creek neighborhood. Pikka's also has one of those dreaded basement spaces that has swallowed several promising restaurants over the years, including my beloved Ondo's. But Pikka's is also another breath of fresh air with welcoming service, a diverse menu (and a great happy hour) that helps to keep Cherry Creek somewhat interesting dining-wise. That, unfortunately, has proved time and time again to not be a winning combination in Cherry Creek North. All the best to Pikka's, and I guess there is always Taita. 

Pikkas Peruvian Cuisine & Pisco Bar on Urbanspoon

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