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The Leichliter’s Cashew Noodles are a new addition to Tanuki’s summer menu. Photo by Craig Turpin.

Road-Trip Restaurant: Tanuki

Take-out, casual noshing, or a five-course chef’s omakase—whatever sort of dining experience you’re after, you’ll find it at Aspen’s quirky new hot spot.

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Aspen’s fine dining scene is well-documented. But judging from the crowds flocking to more-casual spots such as White House Tavern and Home Team BBQ, it seems that denizens of the tony mountain town also crave more laid back experiences. Tanuki, a new eatery that’s popped up at Bootsy Bellows nightclub, aims to satisfy such diverse appetites.

Chefs Jonathan Leichliter and Adam Norwig, along with business partner Kirra Leichliter, started Tanuki in February as a takeout-only operation serving from Bootsy’s back alley entrance. Their inventive Asian fare was an overnight success, so they soon added a chef’s table experience in the kitchen, as well as dine-in service in Bootsy’s patio and lounge. Leichliter and Norwig, who boast combined experience in the catering wings of the Little Nell and Caribou Club as well as in the kitchens of Justice Snow’s and Chef’s Club, plan to keep serving their unique take on Asian cooking through September.

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Tanuki
Chefs Adam Norwig (left) and Jonathan Leichliter (right) in what is now known as “Tanuki Alley” in Aspen. Photo by Craig Turpin

Since there are a myriad ways to experience Tanuki—so named for a Japanese raccoon dog, the god of excess and fun—here’s the rundown on each option:

For takeout, you can call (or text) in an order and then follow the giant arrow in red duct tape marking the entrance to “Tanuki Alley.” The chefs themselves will welcome to you into the kitchen to pick up your dishes, most of which feature over-the-top names. Best-sellers include veggie-filled Brokeback Mountain Town Fried Rice, ground bison-stuffed Harajuku Girls fried wontons, and the Chinese chicken & waffles—a crispy piece of chicken atop a charred scallion-sweet potato bubble waffle with bourbon maple syrup and yuzu-roasted tomato hot sauce.

For patio or lounge seating, head around the front of the Bootsy Bellows’ building and check in at the host stand—there are no reservations for these seats, which shut down around 9 p.m. nightly when the space transforms back into the night club. There, the duo recently unveiled a summer menu featuring dishes that are a bit more elevated than those on the take-out list. “It’s just about food that’s good to eat. It’s not meant to be pretentious. I haven’t had this much fun in the kitchen in my entire life,” Leichliter says. Options include grilled wild mushrooms with crispy garlic, greens, tamari-sesame vinaigrette; tempura sweet potatoes with bonito flakes, spicy aïoli, and shiso leaf; and whole fried bass with kimchi, Palisade peach gastrique, and rice. Beer, wine, and cocktails from Bootsy’s bar are also available when dining in.

And then there’s the chef’s table, a reservation-only five-course omakase experience for six lucky guests in the industrial kitchen space. There, Norwig and Leichliter change the $150-per-person menu nightly, focusing on creative, high-end plates such as gochugaru spiced scallop with asparagus, miso dressing, and a 63-degree egg or rhubarb sweet-and-sour crispy lobster.

Whichever way you taste Tanuki, expect to have an epic experience that’s unlike anything else in Aspen.

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If you go: Tanuki is open for dine-in and take-out Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.. Call ahead to make reservations for the chef’s table. 300 E. Hyman Ave., Aspen, 970-987-0813

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