When my wife and I were in Denver in early September, we asked one of the bellmen at The Curtis, the hotel at which we were staying, who had the best Mexican food in downtown Denver. He told us of a place on Blake Street - D'Corazon - about a six or seven block walk from the hotel. Another bellman wholeheartedly agreed. "There's a lot of good Mexican restaurants in Denver," he explained. "But D'Corazon is probably the most authentic." We had hoped to go to D'Corazon after a baseball game, but we found that they close at 9 p.m. through the week. (A lot of non-chain restaurants in downtown Denver close at 9 p.m. on weekdays, we found.) Three weeks later, I was back out in Denver for the annual CEDIA Expo and my colleague, Todd, was trying to figure out places to go for dinner. He had brought up Mexican food and I told him about the recommendation from the two guys at The Curtis. He made reservations for a large group of us to go try D'Corazon.
D'Corazan (which translates into English as "the heart") opened in 2004 in suburban Lakewood. Eddie Aguirre had been working for a small local chain of family owned Mexican restaurants - Las Delicias. When one of the old Las Delicias locations became available in the LoDo District of downtown Denver a couple years ago, he opened the second D'Corazon on Blake Street. (See map)
We were staying at the Marriott City Center in downtown Denver and it was a pleasant evening so we thought we'd walk to D'Corazon. There were about 8 people in our group and we were going to meet an additional 4 to 6 guys at the restaurant. Todd had made the reservations for 7 p.m. and it was just after 7 p.m. when our group showed up. A hostess pushed together 3 four-seater tables and she left menus on the table.
The interior of D'Corazon features lively earth-toned walls, subdued lighting at night (I had to use the flashlight application on my phone to read anything), and the requisite Mexican artwork adorning the walls. Two flat screen televisions on opposite ends of the dining area were tuned to baseball games. On one of the walls was the phrase "La Perfeccion Tiene su Precio" which translated into "Perfection has it's price." That pretty much means that you're going to have to pay to get good Mexican food at D'Corazon. (Photo courtesy Denver Post)
Margaritas were immediately ordered up (they don't have pitchers of margaritas at D'Corazon, much to our dismay). Chips and salsa was brought to the table. The chips were crisp and fresh, and the housemade salsa had a nice little bite to it. While it wasn't overly spicy, it certainly got your attention.
Someone had the foresight to also order fresh guacamole. Each table had their own large bowl of guacamole placed on it. The guacamole was also fresh and very flavorful - and very rich. It was very filling, so I had to slow down or it would spoil my dinner. But it was so good that it was difficult to stop eating it.
When we had initially talked to the bellmen at The Curtis in early September, one of them was raving about the carnitas dinner at D'Corazon. "The pork is so moist and full of flavor," he was telling us. "It's about the only thing I get there any more and I've eaten there about a dozen times." When I found the carnitas on the menu, it said that it was made with 28 different ingredients, of which 23 were one item. I didn't quite understand it, but I was all in for the carnitas when I found that I could get it served with a green chile sauce. In addition to the carnitas, they had the usual roll call of Mexican favorites - enchiladas, fajitas, tamales, burritos and chimichangas.
We ordered up our food - everyone got a little bit of everything on the menu. Some ordered enchiladas, a couple others ordered fajitas, and a few burritos were ordered. One of my dining partners that evening was also intrigued with the carnitas "secret ingredients" and got that as well.
In the meantime, I thought the house margarita had sort of a funky taste to it. My colleague, Matt, said, "Does the margarita taste funny or is it just me?" It had sort of a bitter taste to it that settled on the tongue. It wasn't sweet or syrup-y like some margaritas tend to be, but it had some taste that wasn't agreeable with me. I saw that they had Sol on the menu and I ordered one of those from one of the servers who was waiting on us. She said, "We don't have Sol." When I pointed it out on the menu, she reiterated, "We don't have Sol." I sort of shrugged my shoulders and ordered a Dos Equis Amber instead. They did have that.
Our food made it to the table. When the waitress put my plate down in front of me, I noticed that the green chile sauce was more of a red color. I got her attention and asked her if she had forgotten about the green chile sauce. "That's the green chile sauce," she told me in sort of a dismissive tone. Well, it was the first time I'd seen green chile sauce that was actually red in color.
Fresh tortillas came with the carnitas dinner and I was able to make my own fajita-style meal out of what was on my plate. The pork pulled apart very easily and was tender with an interesting flavor. Adding some of the pork to the tortilla along with guacamole, refried beans, rice and some of the chile sauce made for a nice taste combination. I was able to make two of the filled tortillas from what I had on my plate.
Below left is one of the enchilada dinners that one of my colleagues sitting near me ordered. He got shredded beef in his enchiladas and he declared them to be very good.
Above right is the chimichanga that one of my colleagues from France ordered. He was having a problem with a tooth (he ended up having to get a root canal while he was in Denver) and he ordered his chimichanga with ground beef so it would be easier to chew. He said the flavor was excellent and it was, indeed, easy to chew.
While I thought my carnitas were fine, I guess I was expecting so much more in the way of taste and flavor. It wasn't that the pork carnitas were bad - far from it. It was that I was expecting this taste explosion in my mouth. It never happened. I asked my dining partner who also got the carnitas what he thought of it and he sort of said, "Ahhh... It was all right. I guess I was thinking it would be this wonderful thing, but I didn't think it was any different from other carnitas I've gotten at other places." I wholeheartedly agreed with him.
But that's not to say that we won't go back to D'Corazon when we're back in Denver next year for the 2014 CEDIA Expo. I'd love to go back and try something else. But I won't get a margarita, unless I get a special one and not the house margarita. While I thought the carnitas were good, they weren't as good as advertised. The carnitas are worth giving them a try and some people may like them more than I did. But I expected more from the dish. But everyone else raved about their food. All in all, D'Corazon's food was good to very good. I haven't tried any other Mexican restaurants in downtown Denver, but D'Corazon would be tough to top.