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Nine perfect 10s 

Indy food writers pick their favorite dishes from 2008

click to enlarge Fight for the croissant bread pudding at Dannys Corner Bistro in Woodland Park. - BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
  • Fight for the croissant bread pudding at Dannys Corner Bistro in Woodland Park.

This year has proven rough on many economic fronts, and the local restaurant scene has reflected as much. We've seen failed launches, like Palapa's Surfside on the east side, and closures of longtime staples, like Par Avion down south.

Fortunately, promising openings have flouted the market: a brewpub (Trinity) and Thai spot (NaRai) on the north side, another gourmet spot in Pueblo (Restaurant Fifteen Twentyone), two ambitious ventures in Old Colorado City (Metropolis and Pizzeria Rustica), new bakeries/diners (Flavors on Tejon and Smiley's Bakery & Caf) and the city's first taste of Sri Lankan food (The Curry Leaf) downtown.

As a look back, each food writer has chosen an appetizer, entre and dessert consumed during the year that deserves a good gush some from new places, others from golden oldies.

Monika Mitchell Randall

Starter: Cured salmon tartar, "Gravlox" style

The Blue Star, 1645 S. Tejon St., 632-1086, thebluestar.net

I loved this take on a classic. Cured in a sweet and salty mixture, the chopped salmon pairs perfectly with the creamy, brandied Dijon crme fraiche and touch of dill. A warm crispy potato latke and American caviar topping make it even better. Beautiful, delicious and at just $9, champagne on a beer budget.

Entre: Tableside filet

Joseph's Fine Dining, 1606 S. Eighth St., 630-3631

I had some serious issues with Joseph's, and thumped it good for the things I didn't like. But I couldn't shake the filet, prepared elegantly tableside by Joseph Freyre himself. Pan-seared in fragrant butter, just enough cracked black pepper and sweet chutney, a simple cut of beef morphs into tender deliciousness. I've been trying to replicate the dish ever since.

click to enlarge At Josephs, get the tableside-prepared filet. - BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
  • At Josephs, get the tableside-prepared filet.

Dessert: Croissant bread pudding

Danny's Corner Bistro, 609 W. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, 687-2233, dannysbistro.net

When you bring a friend to dinner, you don't expect it to end in a hair-pulling slap-fest. But Danny's croissant bread pudding almost had us fighting over the take-away. When it comes to dessert, I like egg, cream, butter, only a touch of chocolate and tartness, easy on the sugar. This dessert hits every note, mixing a few tangy cranberries and chocolate chips with the croissant's buttery goodness. Pure joy.

Matthew Schniper

Starter: Coconut sambol salad

The Curry Leaf Restaurant, 26 S. Wahsatch Ave., 447-0608, thecurryleaf.net

Disclaimer: I go cuckoo for coconuts, so I'm probably totally biased here. But I also get excited for new flavors, and this salad delivers one. That's thanks to the Maldive fish flavoring basically a fish jerky used as a spice in Sri Lankan cooking. Add to it a restrained use of hot chilies and the grated coconut base, and you've got a great starter.

Entre: Pan-seared Australian sea bass

Restaurant Fifteen Twentyone, 123 N. Main St., Pueblo, 719/542-9999, restaurant1521.com

Chef Duy Pham changes his menu frequently, but some version of the sea bass tends to co-star. The evening he captured my heart, he'd poised the crispy-skinned, delicate filet atop a shrimp rice cake with a euphoria-inducing miso beurre blanc (fermented rice or soybean paste with white wine and butter) drizzled about. Truly unforgettable.

Dessert: Goat cheese cake

click to enlarge Gobble a goblet of shrimp at Super Carniceria. - JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley
  • Gobble a goblet of shrimp at Super Carniceria.

Restaurant Fifteen Twentyone, 123 N. Main St., Pueblo, 719/542-9999, restaurant1521.com

The real credit here belongs to Pueblo's Hopscotch Bakery, which makes this dessert exclusively for Fifteen Twentyone. Pastry chef Mary Oreskovich subs in a sensible amount of fine goat cheese, reduces the cream cheese by a touch, and adds a dollop of mascarpone to make it "more ethereal." The result is a light but rich, complex and elegant cheesecake.

Andrea Wenker

Starter: Shrimp cocktail

Super Carniceria Del Norte, 3819 Maizeland Road, 573-5993

You often pay about a buck a bite to tickle your palate with shrimp, but I discovered a secret. It's Del Norte's pummelo-sized goblet of icy, briny shrimp swimming in hand-cut pico and cocktail sauce going for $4.50, last I checked. In the interest of science, I've kept a crustacean count, and laughed my way to 25.

Entre: Pizza Rustica

Pizzeria Rustica, 2527 W. Colorado Ave., 632-8121, pizzeriarustica.com

Of course the crust is as yeasty and toothy, the sauce as tangy, and the cheese as fresh and delicate on all of Rustica's pizzas. Nevertheless, those translucent pink ribbons of prosciutto, the pile of nutty arugula and a steaming pocket of ricotta in the crust beckon every time.

Dessert: Lemoncello sorbetto

Pizzeria Rustica, 2527 W. Colorado Ave., 632-8121, pizzeriarustica.com

Summer in a bowl. As if the puckering lemon and chilly yellow sweetness melting on your tongue aren't enough, you get a drizzle of blood-orange balsamic reduction and a sprinkle of fresh ruby strawberries to dazzle your mouth and your eyes.

scene@csindy.com

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