With a new Executive Chef and a new season comes a new menu for Troy Guard’s Mister Tuna restaurant. We will highlight a few of the great new dishes you'll want to try this Summer, and point out a few house favorites that have carried over. The new Executive Chef, Tristen Epps, relocated from Brooklyn to Denver last year and took over the kitchen at Mister Tuna in February. Having grown up in the Southeast where BBQ is popular, combined with his travels through Asia, Chef Epps unites the flavors of these two distinct cultures into dishes that may appear familiar, but taste completely original.
Mister Tuna opened about two years ago and was inspired by creator/owner Troy Guard's childhood days in Hawaii where his dad, known as Mister Tuna, cooked meals over a grill in their backyard. The new menu combines Guard's Hawaiian history and Chef Epps Southeaster and Asian experiences. Together they have created a marvelous menu with many different flavors, ingredients, and creative combinations. The menu offers Raw Bar selections, many Shared Plates, and a handful of large Entrees meant for sharing. The whole menu in fact was crafted with the intention of sharing a meal, sharing an experience, and enjoying the flavors together with the friends or family at the table with you.
The wood fired grill is a central component here and works alongside the rotisserie that spins everything from local game to whole heritage hogs. This method showcases a style of cooking that brings people together in “Ohana”, the Hawaiian concept for family.
To start, the Oak Grilled English Peas are a fun and flavorful appetizer for the table. They mimic Edamame but with an entirely different flavor that comes from charring them right on the coals and seasoning with yuzu black pepper butter. The other appetizer we shared was their popular Bison Tongue Toast. The bison in this dish is brined for two weeks then cooked for a whole day to become bison pastrami. This delicacy sits atop a house made bread, Fontina cheese sandwich garnished with pickled spicy radish. This shared plate, along with the Charred Barbeque Octopus, are two of the most popular new dishes on the menu. Two longstanding favorites of Chef Guard's that remain on the menu are the broccolini, speck Gnocchi and his Roti Tacos.
Two larger standouts we tried and recommend are the Ancient Grain Spaghetti and the Smoked Cauliflower Agnolotti. While both are pasta dishes, they tasted far from Italian, especially the Spaghetti, which Chef Epps said he calls "Faux Soba". The bolognese sauce he makes is slightly creamy, but uses Asian flavors and XO sauce, simmered shrimp, smoked eggplant, and specked with Speck (cured pork). The Spaghetti is handmade with ancient grains, has the perfect amount of creamy XO sauce, and is all topped with sautéed bok choy and crispy fried shallots - what a wonderful cultural mash up!
The Smoked Cauliflower Agnolotti is similar to ravioli and is stuffed with smooth pureed cauliflower and potato. A house made calabrian chili oil, which is a spicy, mildly sweet Italian chili, surrounds the pasta pillows and provides a zesty punch. Living local greens, buffalo burrata and charred cauliflower decorate this delicious dish.
If you still have room to order an entrée after all the scrumptious shared plates, you can choose between Hawaiian Fish in coconut curry, Rotisserie Pork Collar, and Hanger Steak with their incredibly unique potatoes (gnocchi meets sponge cake gets baked, then deep fried). There’s also a Lamb Ribeye, Halibut, and Fried Rice. You can enjoy the entire menu or just a cocktail at the interactive Chef's counter, the raw and preservation (pickling) bar, the cocktail lounge, or their large outdoor patio. Mister Tuna provides plenty of spaces to match your mood and plenty of eats to please your palate.
Words by Tiffany Candelaria