Except for rice and beans, there may be no more global dish than fried chicken. At Lafayette’s new Mono Mono Korean Fried Chicken, double-frying creates a thin, crackly skin with a barely-there spiced crust on drumsticks deep-cooked to the bone. Dipping fun ranges from spicy mayo to extremely potent garlic sauce.
On my first visit, I also gnawed on bulgogi, bone-in charcoal-grilled beef short ribs in an appealing garlic, ginger and fruit marinade. On the side was house-fermented kimchi, steamed rice and coleslaw.
Returning to the eatery that once housed the short-lived Uturn BBQ, and a Burger King before that, I settled in at a picnic table with lots of napkins, a tabletop container for discarded bones and a pulsing K-pop soundtrack.
Mono Mono’s signature chewy Secret Sauce Chicken is boneless, skinless thighs fried in a unique crunchy coating, drenched in spice, salt, sweet and umami.
I stretched the flavor envelope with the spicy rice cake, which isn’t really explained on the menu. This isn’t those crunchy puffed rice snacks. Korean rice cakes are like thick noodles or dumplings—dense and chewy. These are simmered in gochujang, the Korean sweet chile sauce giving Sriracha a run for its money, with classic mixed vegetables. A grilled shishito pepper, tomatoes and crumbled cotija cheese tops it, but the unexpected surprise are thin slices of mild fish cake.
The Lafayette eatery is the third Mono Mono location owned by JW Lee, an unsung legend in Colorado restaurants. His company operates 20 eateries, including Seoul Korean BBQ & Hot Pot, and Seoul ManDoo in Aurora.
In retrospect, I should have ordered a beer. This cuisine was created to be paired with adult beverages. The Lafayette location came with a working brewery, which is expected to open eventually.
I’ll have to go back for Mono Mono’s famous wings and cross-cultural fusion items like buttered skillet corn with stretchy mozzarella and cilantro, or Korean spaghetti with Parmesan, bulgogi nachos or Cajun chicken salad. For weekend brunch: Stir-fried kimchi rice and vegetables and a sunny side up egg.
Another Roadfood Attraction: Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery
Fried chicken aficionados come in more than one flavor. For the crust people, Denver’s Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery serves up satisfaction with a thick and crunchy robe—tempura batter seasoned with Old Bay—good enough to be served by itself. Inside is an amazingly juicy, slow sous vide-cooked boneless Colorado chicken breast. If that wasn’t enough fun, I tried it at the Englewood location with chipotle-infused honey, bacon gravy, white cheddar polenta and sauteed Swiss chard. A sandwich variation features tzatziki sauce, feta cheese and red onion.
Boulder Recipe Flashback: Jax Fish House
The opening of Jax Fish House in 1994 changed the way Boulder saw seafood. Thanks in part to overnight FedEx and UPS from the coasts, Dave Query was able to dish a world of seafood with an emphasis on sustainability, creating an oyster cult in the process.
In the late 1990s, Jax shared this requested recipe for this creamy stuff, which makes an ideal base for seriously spiced fish, seafood and vegetable dishes.
Jax Fish House Sweet Potato Polenta
1 pound of sweet potatoes or yams
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups milk
1/2 pound cornmeal
Peel and chop sweet potatoes, cover with cold water and boil until soft. Strain and puree in a food processor. Add one cup of cream. In a saucepan, add sweet potato and cream mixture plus honey, salt, nutmeg and one cup of cream and milk. Simmer slowly, stirring frequently. Whisk in cornmeal and continue cooking for about 15 to 20 minutes until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust salt. If too thick, add more milk. Makes about six servings.
Variation: Substitute broth for milk and coconut milk for cream. Add 1 cup chopped roasted green chilies.
Culinary Calendar: All Fruit
Tired of getting rutabagas and other confusing veggies in your CSA box? Longmont’s Ya Ya Farm & Orchard offers an all-fruit CSA this summer starring Longmont-grown stone fruit (like peaches), pears and apples, and includes pie cherries, apple cider and honey, plus occasional melons. No curly kale included. yayafarmandorchard.com