When asked about restaurant expansion and building an empire, chef Gabrielle Hamilton of the acclaimed Prune restaurant in New York City summed up her thoughts thusly: “Prune is a feeling. It’s a good place…it’s a beating heart—my heart…it can’t be replicated.”

You might describe chef-restaurateur Troy Guard‘s approach as the opposite. Even if you don’t follow Denver’s dining scene closely, you’ve likely heard Guard’s name. He’s one of the busiest and most prolific restaurateurs in the Mile High City, with almost 10 restaurants to his name and more currently in the works. Amid all that hustle, however, his latest endeavor, Mister Tuna, stands out. Rather than feeling like just another restaurant, Mister Tuna, which is located in the Industry building on Brighton Boulevard, feels personal—special, even.

That feeling comes from the myriad of distinct touches that are interspersed with the sleek black and gold decor: a mosaic of family pictures that peppers the walkway to the graffiti-splattered restrooms; artist Lui Ferreyra‘s showpiece mural, which is based on an old photo of Guard’s mother. Look closely, and you’ll see cameos from Guard’s home state of Hawaii and his father’s pet parrot in the mural. The name, Mister Tuna, comes from his father’s nickname. (Fun fact: The parrot, which is now half a century old, is also called Mister Tuna.)

The cooking is eclectic and modern, but anchored by an oak-fired grill, rotisserie-roasted meats, and plenty of creative seafood preparations. The connection to Guard’s Hawaiian upbringing isn’t overt— you won’t find loco moco on the menu—but the food is inspired by the casual outdoor home cooking of his island childhood. Easygoing simplicity reigns in dishes like king crab with Palisade peaches and brown butter and whole roasted sea bream with watercress-fennel salad.

Our recommendation? Let general manager Mario Nocifera (formerly of Lower48 Kitchen) and his team lead you to a low-slung booth in the lounge area or to a seat at the chef’s counter, where you can watch the rotisserie spin and the oak flames burn. Order any one of beverage director Michael Cerretani’s balanced cocktails (we’re partial to the summery Chingon, a tequila and watermelon number), and order a slew of small plates to share. Start with the stunning Himalayan Salt Block of the day, which features ever-changing raw fish atop a pink salt block, and don’t miss the carrot agnolotti. The thin purses of pasta are stuffed with puréed charred carrot and goat cheese, served atop more carrot purée, and topped with a Thai-style, carrot top herb salad and candied pistachios.

Right now, Mister Tuna is only open for dinner. Guard plans to roll out breakfast and lunch over the next few weeks.

3033 Brighton Blvd, 303-831-8862

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.