At 4 p.m. tomorrow, May 20, chef/restaurateur Troy Guard will open the doors to his new Lucky Cat Chinese restaurant, which takes the place of Bubu at 7559 East Academy Boulevard in Lowry. The eatery is Guard's homage to the Chinese takeout joints of his childhood, with a little Asian culinary collision thanks to his roots in Hawaii and time spent living abroad.
The interior of Lucky Cat has gotten a few new touches, including maneki-neko figurines and wallpaper, some new banquettes, and a mural that runs the length of the kitchen depicting Bruce Lee, Godzilla, Mr. Miyagi, the Iron Maiden trooper and other pop-culture references.
The menu is mostly Chinese in the instantly recognizable strip-mall style, but with a couple of goodies thrown in for hard-core food hunters. You'll still be able to get your sesame chicken, beef and broccoli or sweet-and-sour pork, but you'll notice a little less sugar and a little more freshness in the ingredients. Regardless of the names of the dishes, Guard's style is immediately evident. "Everything has a little fun, whimsical and badass style to it," the chef explains.
That means that spring -onion pancakes are rolled enchilada-style around shredded duck and turnip cakes, a favorite in dim sum parlors (come on, Denverites — make this one a hit); they come with a non-traditional side of Korean kimchi. Brent Colley, current executive sous-chef at TAG and opening chef at Lucky Cat, explains that the turnip cakes, like a Chinese version of hashbrowns, are made with fresh grated Korean daikon and studded with lap cheong sausage made by a family in Los Angeles that's been at for 75 years. Colley makes the soy-chili oil that comes as a dipping sauce.
Like many of Guard's other restaurants, Lucky Cat prowls around the Pacific Rim, bringing back a short list of sushi, a bowl of saimin noodles (Hawaii's answer to ramen), and a few bursts of flavor from Korea, Japan and India.
The drinks program comes courtesy of Nikki Guard and Michael Cerratani (late of Blackbelly in Boulder), who's now in charge of beverages for the whole TAG restaurant group. There are six sakes by the glass (available in a flight of three for $11), a handful of beers and wines, and a cocktail roster that features house-infused spirits (like Thai chili vodka) and exotic ingredients from harissa to turmeric simple syrup. A happy hour, served from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, will feature lists of $2, $3, $4 and $5 drinks and snacks.
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After Friday's opening, Lucky Cat will be open from 3 to 9:15 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with brunch planned for later this summer and lunch to be added in the fall. Guard expects takeout to be a big deal with neighbors, so two parking spots will be reserved for to-go customers: You'll be able to pay in advance and never leave your car as your order is brought out fresh from the kitchen.
For those who can't live without a quick, light and tasty bowl from Bubu, Guard says the original Larimer Square location is still going strong and a second Bubu will open soon in the Republic Plaza on the 16th Street Mall, which will mirror the fast-casual setup of the first rather than attempting an expanded menu and sit-down service that wasn't entirely successful in Lowry.
Keep reading for more photos of the food and decor at Lucky Cat.