Koko Ni Launches New Menu Full of Playfulness and Grounded Flavors

Seasonal Bouquet

When you first enter Koko Ni, everything exudes playfulness and innovation. From the small animal figurines holding up your chopsticks to the healthy plants hanging over the top of the open-faced kitchen, its uniqueness and commitment to sustainability are easy to see.

This newly opened pop-up turned restaurant — curated by chef de cuisine James Gnizak and James Beard award-winning chef Paul Qui — is dedicated to using only farm fresh produce grown locally in Colorado, resulting in an ever-changing menu as the seasons pass. To provide guests with a wide variety of offerings, the site has developed an Omakase tasting menu that features ten courses unlike anything you have ever tried before. However, if you want to decide on courses for yourself, Koko Ni has now introduced an exclusive a la carte menu where diners can choose menu items in a non-tasting menu format, where pricing will be based on items selected. 

As its name suggests — “Koko Ni” translates to “here” in Japanese — each dish invites guests to savor the present moment while enjoying the current bite and reflecting on how the food got to their plate. With summer in full swing, each course incorporates elements that refresh your palate and elevate both familiar and unfamiliar ingredients. 

Some of the highlights of the new menu include a seasonal bouquet inspired by the flowers and vegetables grown at the Esoterra Culinary Garden. “We highlight some of our favorite leaves and blossoms from our favorite farmers,” said chef de cuisine James Gnizak. “We bundle these ingredients together with pickled rhubarb to resemble a bouquet, served alongside a green goddess dressing based with sunflower milk and all the herbs we can get our hands on. We add smoked trout roe to the mix to incorporate oceanic saltiness, which rounds out the dish.”

It also has a roots course, which features the Hakurei turnip and Mokum carrot, both surprisingly sweet due to how they are grown in cold temperatures with sugars packed into the root so they do not freeze. Accompanied by a kare kare sauce made with carrot juice, peanuts and annatto and finished with lobster butter, this dish incorporates various elements to showcase a depth of flavor while presenting a new way to enjoy root vegetables.

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The dry aged duck is also a must-try made with ancho chili, black garlic, ramps and legumes. For dessert, they offer a delectable panna cotta.

Gnizak explained a bit about the construction of this complicated delicacy and stated, “We start with a yuzu/passion fruit curd at the base (think of a Flintstones push pop you got as a child). We add some holy basil oil to add a little extra depth and floralness to the dish. The matcha streusel brings a bit of texture and a bit of a savory aspect. Matcha has a bit of bitterness, so we add a bit of salt to the streusel to balance everything out. This dish is filled with many textures and flavors — a subtle reminder of early summertime freedom.”

The main aspect that sets Koko Ni apart is that the team highlights community in the process of elevating food. Partnering with local farms, including Croft Family Farm, Toohey & Sons Organic and Aspen Moon Farms, it is apparent that sourcing ingredients for communal nutrition is a top priority. Koko Ni has curated a truly astounding menu bursting with freshness, earthy flavors and surprises that will delight your taste buds. Make sure to visit before the season ends so you can take advantage of its new menu.

Koko Ni is located at 1441 26th St, Denver, and is open Wednesday – Saturday from 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

All photography courtesy of Jeff Fierberg

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