5086 N. Nevada Ave., 598-0142, tokyojoes.com
Our previous visits to this popular Denver-based chain proved up-and-down, and checking in now, a year after the Academy Boulevard location's launch, we can at least say it's consistent in that regard. Service remains noticeably nicer-than-most, especially considering the no-tip policy. And aesthetically, the spaces achieve a pleasing atmosphere, backed by an alluring menu.
The rub is when the fare doesn't fully live up to said allure. Our build-your-own salmon bowl ($7.80) did, mainly because the fantastic house green curry sauce plays well over brown rice with the "no brainer veggie mix" ($1.30 extra) of peas, edamame, broccoli, zucchini and carrots. Our wild mahi on the spinach Kihei Salad ($9.20), like the salmon, was well-cooked, but the rest was overcomplicated: everything from mango and cucumber to avocado and wonton strips hits sappy-sweet notes, thanks to a thick, honey-mango dressing drowning. — Matthew Schniper
2819 N. Nevada Ave., 471-7733, trivellis.net
Trivelli's fills out its new space beautifully, with Philly ephemera — plus some from the mighty teams of Colorado — on stone-accented walls previously redone by 2011 tenant Blue Agave Mexican Grill. With pickled eggs on the counter, and a diverse lunch crowd filling the L-shaped dining room, the restaurant's as at-home as it was when it was three doors down.
Previously warned about the heft of the 12-inchers, we were excited to go with the steak hoagie ($11.14) and the Italian Steak ($11.14). By default, the former comes "Whiz wit," though it's gooey American used in place of Cheez Whiz. The grilled onions, plus lettuce, cherry peppers and oil, all serve to play off the piles of moist meat. The Italian Steak takes moisture to a new level when its meat juices soak the bun until it's almost inedible, but surprisingly complementary tomato sauce with Parmesan justifies the endeavor. — Bryce Crawford
9475 Briar Village Point, #150, 266-8351, lanshingcafe.weebly.com
The cafe's a tight, cozy spot in the cramped shopping center off Briargate Parkway, decorated with the usual accoutrements plus an awesome fat stack of National Geographics. At the register, where signage advertises a massive hot-tea collection, we asked a friendly woman what the most original thing on the menu is. Apparently, there's not much of a call for anything but the classics, so a lunch portion of orange chicken ($7.25) it was.
On a sticky table, the plate arrived with the usual good bargain of wonton soup, generic fried rice with the occasional shred of egg, and the kind of crispy egg roll we've all eaten a million times. Still, no crime committed, because the flavor was there in slices of chicken bearing a uniquely crispy crust that lightly collapsed between my teeth. A bright citrus zing served to further differentiate it as a step above your average Chinese fare — but only a step. — Bryce Crawford