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100 Favorite Dishes: South African black ruff from TAG

100 Favorite Dishes: South African black ruff from TAG
Lori Midson

No. 74: South African ruff from TAG

Troy Guard, chef/owner of TAG (and soon, TAG Raw Bar), has roots in Hawaii, which may explain, at least in part, why his board at TAG swims with shellfish and fish, including things like Maine diver scallops puddled in a parsnip vanilla puree and sushi rolls tucked with yellowfin or lobster. His fish-infatuation, however, skims across oceans far and wide, and he embraces a universe of sea creatures that you rarely, if ever, find on Denver restaurant menus. To wit: South African black ruff.

According to Guard, TAG is the only restaurant in Denver that's serving the fish, a blunt-snouted South African species that's been known to wander a long way from home, even surfacing in the waters off the southern coast of Massachusetts. But even if it was a bottom feeder existing on leftovers lingering on the floor of a moody swamp, I'd still fall hook, line and sinker for the swimmer, which, in Guard's very capable hands, is a superb dish. Topped with pea sprouts, its flesh, fringed with a slight char and glamorously silken but firm, straddles a heap of edamame beans and turmeric-dusted artichokes that gets a big boost of adrenaline from the lagoon of kabayaki sauce spiked with the citrus of yuzu and saltiness of soy.

Hungry for more? All the dishes in our countdown are linked below:

No. 100: Italian wedding soup from the Squeaky Bean

No. 99: American Classic Burger (and fries) from Tarbell's

No. 98: E's clam linguini from Mangiamo Pronto

No. 97: Queso a la plancha taco from the Pinche Tacos wagon

No. 96: Prosciutto-wrapped jalapeño poppers from Tony's Market

No. 95: Fried chicken from the Pinyon

No. 94: Seafood soup from Farro

No. 93: Posole from The Porker

No. 92: Breakfast Burrito from the Taco Wagon in Lafayette

No. 91: Hummus from Shish Kabob Grill

No. 90: Albondigas meatballs from Solera

No. 89: Lemon-ricotta doughnuts from Olivéa

No. 88: Döner kabob from Shondiz

No. 87: Roasted cauliflower salad from Euclid Hall

No. 86: Beef cheek enchiladas from El Diablo

No. 85: Fried Brussels sprouts from Panzano

No. 84: Pork osso buco from Osteria Marco

No. 83: Cazuela Colombiana from Cafe Brazil

No. 82: Chicken potpie from Devil's Food

No. 81: Sichuan braised beef noodle soup from Zoe Ma Ma

No. 80: Larb nua from Taste of Thailand

No. 79: Pork shank from Argyll

No. 78: Truffo panino from Shangri-La Cafe

No. 77: Pig-snout tacos from Guadalajara Authentic Mexican Buffet

No. 76: Speck and maple ice cream from Pizzeria Basta

No. 75: Tom yum goong from Thai Flavor

In late 2009, we embarked on a culinary journey that took us through our favorite dishes in the Mile High City -- one hundred, to be exact -- as a precursor to the Best of Denver 2010 issue. Now we're back with round two, counting down (in no particular order) a hundred more of our favorite Denver dishes in a list that, by our imperfect calculations, should be wrapped up by the time the Best of Denver 2011 hits the streets on March 31. In the meantime, if there's a dish you think we need to try, tell us about it in the comments section below, or shoot us an e-mail at lori.midson@westword.com.

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