Dish of the Week: Spuntino Ups the Tartare Game With Elk

The elk tartare at Spuntino in Highland.
The elk tartare at Spuntino in Highland.
Linnea Covington
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Tartare these days comes in many forms, but mainly as beef or tuna. Not so at Spuntino, 2639 West 32nd Avenue in the Highland neighborhood; here chef Cindhura Reddy uses elk, and oh, what a delicious choice of meat it is.

Before you scoff at elk as tough or gamey, keep in mind that this isn't just any wild beast. Reddy sources from  Denver's Tonali's Meats, which in turn seeks out the best products from around the country. Spuntino buys North American elk that's wild-tracked, so the animals roam the woods and meadows on wide-open ranches. It doesn't get much more free-range than that.

The freshness can be tasted with each bite of the tender, chopped meat. Reddy adds subtle Indian flavors with pulverized fresh ginger and garlic, two staples that can be found in just about every Indian kitchen, something that speaks to Reddy's heritage. In addition, shallots, cured egg yolk, black salt and preserved-lemon aioli all harmonize in a bright and slightly biting way.

None of these nuances prove surprising given Spuntino's dedication to serving great food to the neighborhood, which earned Reddy and her husband and business partner, Elliott Strathmann, our award for Best Restaurant on 32nd Avenue this year.

The elk tartare should be on the menu for several more weeks, but then will be gone until elk season rolls around again. Enjoy it now with housemade ciabatta and a glass of effervescent white wine; Strathmann can help guide you to the right choice of bubbly.

Spuntino is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Call 303-433-0949 or visit the restaurant's website for more information and reservations.

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