Denverites certainly love their sushi and ramen, and there are a few places around town where you can satisfy your craving for katsu and okonomiyaki. But what about other kinds of Japanese cuisine? The Mile High City certainly has room for more, and Tennyson Street’s two-month-old Tenya Japanese Soulfood is a good start toward filling the void.
Owner Jimmy Niwa is an experienced restaurateur and the chef behind Niwa Japanese Barbecue in Dallas, Texas; Tenya is his first venture into the Denver market. Niwa has made a few changes to the Tenya space (which formerly housed Kazan Ramen and Axios Estiatorio) by walling off the kitchen and swapping out red track lighting along the walls for softer white lights. Next up: replacing Kazan’s volcano mural with a new piece of art.
The menu is broken into two sections: small plates and Japanese oak-grilled skewers. Choose a few items from each section to share with your tablemates for a true izakaya-style dining experience—of course ordering a round or two of cocktails or beers to go with the snacklike fare. You can’t beat the pork belly kukuni ($12) for comfort on a cold night: the rich, tender, soy-and-ginger braised pork belly and marinated jammy egg get lovely balance from pickled chopped mustard greens. Classic takoyaki (fried balls of batter studded with octopus, topped with bonito flakes; $10) and matcha buckwheat soba noodles ($9) served with a soy dipping sauce are also worth ordering.
There are about 15 different “robatayaki” skewers available, including vegetarian-friendly okra with charred lemon ($4) and king trumpet mushrooms with green onion oil and wasabi “furikake” (a Japanese seasoning; $6). Whatever you do, don’t miss Tenya’s skirt steak brushed with red miso ($12). Cooked to a juicy medium rare, the meat was uncommonly tender for a sometimes-tough cut and full of delicious beefy flavor.
If you go: Tenya is open nightly from 5 to 10 p.m. except for Tuesdays, when the restaurant is closed. 3901 Tennyson St., 720-535-7253