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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar expansion set to dazzle

Posted By on Sat, Jan 4, 2020 at 12:26 PM

click to enlarge The former, longtime Il Vicino space at 11 S. Tejon St. has been transformed into Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar's sixth location. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The former, longtime Il Vicino space at 11 S. Tejon St. has been transformed into Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar's sixth location.

In June, 2019, the Indy announced the impending arrival of Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar.

To recap in brief: Jax is part of Boulder-based Big Red F Restaurant Group, a 25-year-old company that also operates Lola Coastal Mexican, The Post Brewing Co., The West End Tavern, Zolo Southwestern Grill, and Centro Mexican Kitchen. Jax — which specializes in sustainably sourced seafood, being the first Colorado restaurant certified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch — also has locations in Boulder (the original spot), Fort Collins, Lodo Denver, Glendale, and Kansas City.
click to enlarge Upon entry, guests are greeted by an alluring raw bar display. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Upon entry, guests are greeted by an alluring raw bar display.

This Colorado Springs location opens Tuesday, Jan. 7, with the first brunch service beginning Sunday, Jan. 12. I got a media preview on Jan. 3, with a mini tasting and tour through the significantly overhauled facility with chef/founder Dave Query. (Random related fun fact: I served and shift managed in this spot circa 1999/2000 when I was in college and it was Il Vicino — so this tour for me was more of a "oh, the brewery used to be there, and fermentation tanks here ... how the hell did you get the pervasive wood-oven pizza smell out?" type tour.)

click to enlarge Executive Chef Sheila Lucero (left), chef/founder (or "Chief Instigator") Dave Query, and "Creative Cat" Dana Query. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Executive Chef Sheila Lucero (left), chef/founder (or "Chief Instigator") Dave Query, and "Creative Cat" Dana Query.

Back in June, Query told me he’s been waiting for the right Springs location for 20 years, saying: “We’re excited to have found a location we think suits the brand and allows us to do something in the way we do it well — which is small.”
Considering that well-established brand, he speaks modestly as we sit together in the new space. "We don't see ourselves as a big fish in a small pond; we work twice as hard to gain our cred," he tells me. "We've got proving to do."

click to enlarge Steak tartare with dijon creme and grana padano. Jax sources the beef for it through Denver's River Bear  Meats (run by Chef Justin Brunson from Old Major) — River Bear sources this beef from Revere Meat Co. out of Minnesota. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Steak tartare with dijon creme and grana padano. Jax sources the beef for it through Denver's River Bear Meats (run by Chef Justin Brunson from Old Major) — River Bear sources this beef from Revere Meat Co. out of Minnesota.
click to enlarge Seasonal Spanish octopus: sous vide octopus with sherry and orange zest, 'nduja sausage, anchovy tapenade made with Castelvetrano olives, almond crumble and grana padano, over traditional risotto with compound butter. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Seasonal Spanish octopus: sous vide octopus with sherry and orange zest, 'nduja sausage, anchovy tapenade made with Castelvetrano olives, almond crumble and grana padano, over traditional risotto with compound butter.

Executive Chef Sheila Lucero joins us for a moment, while dropping off stellar samples of Oysters Rockefeller (traditional style) and oysters chargrilled in Creole butter with garlic and parsley and grana padano cheese. She serves on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch's Blue Ribbon Task Force, networking with others around the U.S. on sustainability concerns. Jax's menu features a "note on sourcing" on its back page that explains their ethics and practices.


Guests can get in on the action via the Jax Oyster Club, through which you can order from the same providers and pick up oysters at Jax for dining at home.

Past the long central bar and near the open kitchen, guests will find a colorful aquarium. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Past the long central bar and near the open kitchen, guests will find a colorful aquarium.

I also meet newly appointed beverage director Alan Henkin, who brings experience from The Wolf's Tailor, Basta and Frasca. In addition to overseeing a fairly extensive bottle and glass wine list, he's curated around a dozen beers for this location (including a couple local breweries) and a dozen cocktails, broken into martini, NOLA Classics and house infusion categories that capture both traditional and longtime favorite Jax drinks.

click to enlarge Our Colorado Springs location Sous Chef Brian Pistorino (left) and Chef de Cuisine Jesse Guare. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Our Colorado Springs location Sous Chef Brian Pistorino (left) and Chef de Cuisine Jesse Guare.

Something I may circle back on later is any extra significance of Jax's arrival on the scene — call it Boulderization maybe? — as in late 2018 I opined about the Denverization of the Springs with the arrival of Denver Biscuit Company and Dos Santos.

More recently, I caught all kinds of holy hell from some Indy readers when I used the opening of The Roswell to examine the current state of the Springs food scene, questioning if we were making any backward progress (concurrent with other hopeful openings, in this case.)

I'll conclude here by simply saying Jax will be one to watch in 2020, and the early samplings show a lot of promise. 

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