Japango, 1136 Pearl St., Boulder, boulderjapango.com
If it’s true you eat with your eyes, then Japango’s Boulder bowl will have your peepers categorically stuffed. A bowl of tuna, yellowtail and salmon over sushi rice bursts with color and gets the gastric juices flowing before you dip your chopsticks in. Like everything at Japango, there is substance to back up the good looks; the fish is fresh, expertly sliced and well-apportioned. Crisp cucumber and sinus-cleansing wasabi provide footholds as you make your way through the bowl. There are few better ways to ride out the last days of winter than in Japango’s modern, yet cozy dining space, next to a tall flask of hot sake and a bowl or plate of delicious fresh fish. $22.
Smoked Pork Cali Burrito
Verde, 640 Main St., Louisville; 3070 28th St., Boulder, verdeboulder.com
OK, so the hottest place to be in Boulder County right now is Verde. Whether you stop in at the new digs on Main Street in Louisville (the old Blue Parrot building), or at the strip mall location on 28th Street in Boulder, you’re going to be met with a lot of energy, people, drinks and food. The Verde operation has exploded from its food truck beginnings, thanks mostly to its stable of bold Mexican foods. The standard Cali burrito includes guacamole, potatoes, cheese and salsa, with a choice of protein; we chose smoked pork. The meat is tender and robust, like biting into a pig on a spit. Special shout-out to the crispy-skinned and light potato hash on the inside. That’s next level burrito-ing. $12.50.
My Mom Listens to Slayer
Bramble & Hare, 1970 13th St., Boulder, brambleandhare.com
If you’re not making Bramble & Hare a regular stop on your nights out in downtown Boulder, well, you should. The selection of inventive craft cocktails is virtually unparalleled. Take the tequila-based, My Mom Listens to Slayer. It’s reposado tequila, strawberry, and a gastrique of mushroom and Flemish sour ale. It starts sweet and floral, then moves to earthy and spicy, then to a hint of tartness. If the Old Fashioned is your drink, give this a try. If not, try it anyway, or any of the other bold creations on the cocktail list. $10.
Risotto con Gamberi
Via Toscana, 356 McCaslin Blvd., Louisville, viatoscana.com
Once you step inside the thick, wooden doors of Via Toscana, it’s easy to forget the outside world. Thick shades keep the real world out, while the service, decoration and classic Italian menu transports you to what feels like some old New York City haunt. Its take on shrimp risotto is tastefully understated and well-prepared. Crisp, fresh shrimp is nestled atop creamy risotto cooked perfectly al dente. Garlic, herb and olive oil bring the right amount of flavor. $7.