In its simplest form, this dish at TAG translates to yellowtail sashimi with Pop Rocks. The combo may sound totally bizarre, but this is just one of those times when you have to trust that chef-owner Troy Guard, a master manipulator of tastebuds and senses, can do no wrong. The dish is a complex mix of flash-seared hamachi, jalapeños, baby tatsoi greens, Japanese ginger, yuzu white soy and, yes, a smattering of Pop Rocks, which create a tingly party on your tongue while somehow not overpowering the subtle flavors of the fish. Hungry for more? Head up Larimer to Guard's Los Chingones, where you can get a drink with Pop Rocks, too.

Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen
Danielle Lirette

Folks are picky about their bagels, and Rosenberg's owner Josh Pollack has gone beyond the call of duty in his attempt to re-create one of New York's most iconic foods, going so far as to replicate New York City water in his Five Points kitchen. But don't get so distracted by the bagels that you forget to order Pollack's cured and preserved fish, either on a sandwich or from the deli case to go. Several different styles of salmon beckon from behind the glass, including smoked Norwegian and Scottish varieties, delicate and almost-translucent gravlax, and heartier kippered salmon. Other East Coast favorites like sable and smoked whitefish are sure to please recent transplants and Denver natives alike, while house-pickled herring features powerful old-world flavors of tangy vinegar, pickling spice and squares of herring that almost melt on the tongue. An array of seafood like this is a true rarity in this town, made even more special by the fact that everything is prepared on site.

While Acorn is primarily known for its elevated small plates, don't overlook the comfort foods here. Shrimp and grits is typically a Southern staple, but the dish is becoming more and more prevalent up north (or at least in the northern Southwest). Acorn has figured out how to give those Southerners a run for their money with a super-creamy bowl of Tabasco sofrito and white-wine grits with succulent laughing shrimp. This haute, homey dish is perfect for getting you through the long Colorado winter.

Stoic & Genuine
Danielle Lirette

The best seafood restaurants are often shacks on the beach, with sea breezes blowing in and tables oriented to catch the rosy hues of the setting sun. But we're in Denver, remember? Owners Beth Gruitch and Jennifer Jasinski used this fact to their advantage, taking our distance from the coasts as a point of liberation and reimagining what a seafood restaurant can be. The result: Stoic & Genuine, which is part Euclid Hall, part Rioja. Inspired by flavors from coastal communities around the globe, the menu skews eclectic, offering scallops with coconut-lemongrass panna cotta, bacon-wrapped cod chowder, and oysters with lychee-sake granitas. Thanks to impeccable sourcing, the seafood couldn't be any fresher even if the ocean, and not Union Station, were beyond the restaurant's octopus-painted walls.

Readers' choice: Jax Fish House

Jax Fish House

The Boulder and LoDo locations of Jax Fish House have been premier destinations for impeccably fresh seafood and well-shucked oysters since they opened in the mid-1990s, but the newest member of the metro-area Jax family, which opened in Glendale's CitySet development in 2013, stepped up the game with more space, a second bar upstairs and a clean, modern vibe that pairs perfectly with raw-bar offerings. Happy-hour oysters for $1.25 a slurp will get you in the door, but peel-and-eat shrimp and delectable crab will keep you in your seat. Splurge items — three types of caviar or heaping seafood platters mounded with both the raw and the cooked — tempt for celebratory occasions, but creative takes on ceviche and tuna sushi make for reasonably priced light bites packed with so much fresh flavor, you'll forget you're in landlocked Denver.

Readers' choice: Jax Fish House

Lola has the deck of a great beach bar, the vibe of a great beach bar, the menu of a great beach bar — all that's missing is the beach. After a decade, Lola added the words "Mexican Fish House" to its name last year, renewing its commitment to serving the sort of seafood you might find in Mexico — but with a definite Denver twist. Although you can find plenty of twisted dishes on the regular menu, the freshest takes are the ceviches, which range from Hawaiian marlin to shrimp to California halibut, with a couple of specials usually available. You can try them all in a ceviche flight — a very hot deal at the cold bar.

Sushi Den
Sushi Den

Freshness, variety, creativity and execution: Those are the hallmarks that put Sushi Den at the apex of Denver's sushi scene year after year. From meticulous sourcing that includes regular cold-packed shipments from Japanese waters to precise knife work that highlights the best of every cut, Toshi and Yasu Kizaki's venerable temple of the raw and the cooked just gets better with each passing year. While standards like big-eye tuna and rich salmon are always impeccable, stray from the familiar with aburi (flash-seared) scallops or akamutsu, or zuke (marinated) tuna, which add complexity without detracting from the pure flavors of the fish. Sushi Den marries the modern and the traditional with bursts of flavor from delicately applied hints of blue cheese, truffle, caviar and jalapeño.

Readers' choice: Sushi Den

Sushi Sasa
Linnea Covington

Chef Wayne Conwell's minimalist dining room is known, rightfully, as one of Denver's top destinations for sushi. Whether guests arrive for preset sushi combos or lavish omakase dinners, they'll get some of the freshest seafood and most skillfully sliced sashimi around. But despite its name, Sushi Sasa offers more than just fish. A selection of otsumami (described on the menu as Japanese tapas) shows off Conwell's creativity, with decadent foie-gras-topped oysters, succulent miso black cod or fluffy steamed pork buns. You'll even find deep, umami-rich ramen and udon bowls, deftly fried tempuras and skewers of grilled filet mignon with a crunchy katsu crust. With so much to choose from, it's easy to rack up a hefty tab, but head over for a daytime meal when you don't have three hours to march through the menu and you'll find some of your favorites at lunchtime prices.

Readers' choice: Sushi Den

Motomaki
Courtesy Motomaki Facebook

Is it something in the water? Colorado has birthed many smashing fast-casual concepts, and Motomaki might be the most ambitious, creative one yet. For this venture, the owners of the Hapa Sushi chain took their brand of high-minded cool and rolled it in the trappings of Japanese fast food. Entrees come in either a rice bowl or a nori-wrapped package — the fusion of fast-casual burrito and sushi. Even though it's built on Asian and Hawaiian cuisines, the pork here rivals that at Chipotle. And while meals are delivered quickly and efficiently, fresh poke and sushi add a touch of class. There are few places that can serve you such dishes as Korean BBQ or neon-green seaweed salad for lunch and still get you back to the office in time, placing Motomaki in the center of the fast-casual Venn diagram: tasty, easy, and out of the ordinary.

JJ Chinese Seafood Restaurant
Hunter Stevens

The multiple menus at this eatery adorned with live tanks assure you that there's something here for almost every taste — all of it prepared with skill and an eye to tradition and served by some of the friendliest waitstaff in town. Even the standard American-Chinese dishes are far from standard, including sweet-and-sour shrimp that's neither cloying nor gloppy. But the restaurant's name is a giveaway that the best dishes are those featuring the ocean's bounty, whether the delicate and ultra-fresh razor clams in XO sauce or whole flounder with steamy white flesh encased in a shatteringly crisp deep-fried crust. The kitchen has a way with duck, too: Fried duck tongues are as fun to eat as miniature chicken wings, while dark-glazed roasted duck with pillowy bao buns stands in for less-adventurous sliders. Hearty and warming congee, shockingly cheap hot pots and even cheaper noodle bowls round out a roster that draws off-duty cooks from around the city until midnight daily.

Readers' choice: Star Kitchen

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