Mister Tuna Continues to Add to Guard's Denver Empire

From the Notorious T.A.G.

Have you noticed?  Chef Troy Guard has stealthily taken over the Denver dining scene. Guard opened his first restaurant, TAG, in Larimer Square in 2009. A few months ago, he opened his eighth area eatery and it is unlike any of his previous offerings. Meet Guard’s Mister Tuna in RiNo.

The moniker comes from his father’s nickname and features a visible wood-fired oven serving an eclectic mix of Americana small plates mixed with Pacific Rim touches. The menu reflects the meals that Hawaiian-born Guard grew up with when his father grilled in the backyard. Guard also let Master Mixologist Michael Cerretani loose behind the bar for a cocktail menu that matches the food menu in diversity and cleverness. 

One of things Cerretani takes pride in is that his bar team at MT collaborates to make interesting cocktails that match the inventiveness of the food. He says cocktails, like food, should appeal to all the senses, from the sound of the cocktail shaker to the sight of Mister Tuna’s extra-long bar. By the time you sip one of these concoctions, you’ll be saving the best sense for last.

The Palomazo, the bar’s twist on the Paloma, is also the most popular. It glows a pale red with Herradura Blanco and fresh lime, and the cocktail also contains blood orange and Jarritos grapefruit soda with a chili salt half rim. The chili salt and blanco tequila give the cocktail a smoky scent while the taste is tart and fruity. This cocktail will appeal deep into fall and even winter.

Bartender Haylee Ortiz (AKA the Merry Mistress of Mayhem) has created several unique cocktails. The Valium goes a bit further than the Palomazo using Montelobos Mezcal, Benedictine, Amaretto and fresh lemon. This gorgeous pink drink also features a special red vino float and torched cherry garnish making it Instagram-worthy. 

Her Suspiria (pictured at the top) features Reyka Vodka, St. Germain, fresh lime and mint with a Prosecco topper and, wait for it, a dark cherry surprise at the bottom. While also an incredibly beautiful drink, Ortiz named the cocktail after her favorite horror film from Italian noir director Dario Argento. Go ahead, Google it. Suspiria has a slight smoky minty scent, but the taste is a pleasant mix of earthy grain vodka and refreshing citrus. Take your time with this drink. The cherry makes it tempting to chug, but this cocktail was meant to be sipped.

Fallback is the menu’s only rum offering, and a seasonal cocktail, so it won’t be on the menu for long. However, if you like Sailor Jerry Rum as much as we do, get here now to enjoy this fall sipper. It features Italian Cardamaro, gingers, fresh lime, allspice dram, egg white and bitters. The allspice dram is wine based and gives the cocktail an orange, clove and cinnamon scent and an almost tart ginger cider taste. While the drink was created as a twist on the daiquiri, Fallback is one of the most unique tastes on the menu, like drinking a spice cake.

The bar’s draft and bottled beer list is just as interesting. It is currently the only bar serving Kuichi Brewery’s Hitachino Nest red rice beer from Japan. The beer is almost pink and the taste is an amalgamation of malty beer and sweet sake.

Cerretani’s bar also specializes in Scotch with 12 premium bottles on the menu and most are aged 12 years or more. Many other spirits from Amari to Cachaca can be had so if you prefer to design your own cocktail, Ortiz and the other bartenders will be happy to do so. They enjoy a challenge. Bartenders will also whip up a Mocktail, if you desire, or sip a Mexican Coke or Sprite made with real cane sugar.

The food menu at MT is simple yet inviting. Snack on plates like Charcoal Rotisserie Lamb Sliders. Chef Adam Vero slow cooks an entire lamb once a week for these sliders (and pizza too) and it is as succulent as you can imagine. Charlie Guard Ahi Poke is made with tuna flown in weekly, sometimes daily, from Hawaii and plated with hearts of palm, little balls of avocado, seaweed and a soy chili onion vinaigrette that will transport Denverites to the Hawaiian islands. For a Far East meets Wild West taste, try the Vietnamese Style Kampachi with smoked fish stock vinaigrette and candied peanuts.

Mister Tuna is located inside RiNo’s Industry building and features Guard family photos on the wall and garage door walls that open up when the weather cooperates. The restaurant is open from 5-9:30 Monday through Thursday and until 10 PM Friday and Saturday. Happy hour starts when the bar opens each day and features select beers for $3, select wines and well drinks for $5 and a cocktail of the week for $6. Although not open for lunch, check the Facebook page for “Pop Up Lunches” once a month.

Photos via Carrie Dow

Tags: Beer, Cocktails, Dinner
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