Author: Kate Bustamante
The Zagat-rated Blue Hen Vietnamese Kitchen, located midway up Colorado, offers delicious Vietnamese cuisine made with ingredients that come from organic or local farmers and suppliers. Established in 2004, Blue Hen makes their food entirely from scratch, uses no MSG in their cooking and only buys from farms with environmentally sustainable farming principles. The owners’ slogan, “Eat. Drink. Organic.,” encapsulates their community-based entrepreneurial ethos and results in fresh, flavorful and filling meals.
The Hen’s owner, Que Dang, says her restaurant is organic because of the values she derived from cooking for her two children. “When I thought about opening a restaurant, I thought, ‘Why should I serve different food than I serve at home?'” she said. “It was an obvious connection.”
Blue Hen is not just getting by on its principles alone, however. It makes great food too. The fresh spring rolls, which includes tempura shrimp instead of the organic chicken or tofu like in the appetizer, is an ideal first course to share. The side of homemade Vietnamese dipping sauce only enhanced the rolls’ light, flavorful and surprisingly filling. The shrimp gave the rolls an added crunch while the fried seafood flavor complemented the crisp vegetables inside.
The fresh, made-from-scratch ingredients make Blue Hen’s traditional Vietnamese noodle soup, Phở, especially memorable. A staple in many Vietnamese restaurants and similar in taste to most Phở, it is made with a light, chicken or beef, onion-infused broth and Vietnamese rice noodles. Apart from the flavorful sides provided with the soup, the homemade hoisin and the Sriracha sauces are great additions that make the soup really pop. Be warned, the Sriracha is very spicy. A moderate dosage of both, however, will send you to Phở heaven.
The turmeric French fries, a mixture of russets and Japanese sweet potatoes, are a delicious side as well. Perfectly crispy and topped with turmeric salts, they are cooked to a golden brown and served with a traditional fish sauce.
The ambiance of the dining room only adds to the pleasing gormandizing experience. Blue Hen’s design is eye-catching, fun and contemporary, making the restaurant feel more spacious. Sticking to its namesake, the walls are painted blue, and the tables and chairs are modern. Asian accents, such as the glass light fixtures resembling traditional paper lanterns, top off the design. The simple presentation of the entrees on plain white dishes contrasts well with the surprisingly vivid brightness of the blue walls. It is also very college-student friendly, since none of the dishes are priced over $10.
For Dang, her restaurant is where people from the community can mingle. “It’s very small, [with a] neighborhood-feel,” she said. “I would like it to be reasonably priced with fresh [and local] food and just a place you can take your date, your parents or just hang out with your friends.”
Dang maintains a commitment to personal customer connections as well. She waits on customers herself, alongside other servers, and is exceptionally friendly and attentive while doing so. The pleasant atmosphere filled with music ranging from Norah Jones to Led Zeppelin makes the wait seem short, if there is one.
Located at 1743 Colorado Blvd., Blue Hen distinguishes itself from the usual fare as a community-based, family-friendly ethnic alternative. Its cozy, eclectic character attracts a wide variety of customers and offers inexpensive, organic and incredibly tasty Vietnamese food. “It’s a place I would go out, if I would go out to eat,” Dang said.
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