In Denver's River North neighborhood, Hop Alley hits all the buttons: great taste, quality ingredients, good service, reasonable prices, and it works for snacking, the hungry, wine lovers, groups, dates, everybody.
The restaurant is one main ding room with an open kitchen and a communal table closest to the action.
Salt & pepper crispy softy shell crab is served here as roll ups, wrapped in bibb lettuce.
The cocktail menu includes shareable punches, and one of the house signatures is the Elektra King, single-barrel Buffalo Trace bourbon with ginger, passion fruit and black tea, served in a tea pot.
Salt and pepper crispy soft shell crab is served as make your own wraps, with bibb lettuce and lime aioli, while rice is served in a riff on classic Chinese food takeout containers.
One of the most interesting cold starters is the chicken liver pate, mounds of soft pate accompanied by sliced Chinese sausage and spirals of daikon radish, resulting in complex flavors.
Dessert is bread pudding incorporating black sesame, an Asian spin.
Garlic shrimp noodles are one of the more popular dishes and understandably so – it’s simple but delicious.
The star of the show here is the La Zi Jim, fried chicken, which is very spicy, and very addictive. It is boneless chunks of fried chicken with dried chilies and Sichuan pepper, and once you start it is hard to stop. Like most entrees here, it is served in a generous, family-style portion.
Chef/owner Tommy Lee’s favorite dish, the Corner Post Hunan “pork chop,” is a far cry from other pork chops. It’s a large serving of fatty belly-like pork slices from Colorado rancher Corner Post Farms, served on a bed of vegetables, with a delicious thick brown sauce and unique kick from pickled pineapple.
The bestselling dish and must-try appetizer is Beijing duck rolls. Big, thick and meaty, these burrito-sized rolls have lots of tender duck and cabbage with hoisin sauce in a chewy but light scallion pancake.
At Hop Alley, one fun touch is that the white rice is served in a riff on classic Chinese food takeout containers.
Hop Alley has a simple laid-back design, with wooden tables, disposable chopsticks and paper napkins at every table.
Heavy white plastic chairs and hip hop photos are the only unusual touches in an otherwise simple setting.
There is a small bar area, which is more for having a drink while waiting to take out than for dining in.
The signature cocktails, many with Asian touches ranging from lychee to Japanese whisky, all are named for James Bond characters.