Fish foodography: Justin Brunson's Wild Catch opens to smooth sailing in Uptown

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When the fish meets the land, you have Wild Catch, Justin Brunson's urbanized house party celebrating sustainable sea creatures that opened this week in the former Tastes Wine Bar space at 1033 East 17th Avenue. Brunson's food -- pure, clean, confident and ingredient-driven -- already has major buzz (on Sunday night, Denver's best chefs, including Frank Bonanno and Jeff Osaka, were in attendance), and so does the restaurant's snazzy iPad wine list, a high-tech cheat sheet with detailed descriptions and ratings of all the labels.

And the kitchen squad, sidekicked by Lance Barto (the former exec chef of Strings); Johnny Fermento (Fruition and Food Guy Catering); Josh Kauffman (former sous chef at Steuben's); and Galen Kennemer, another Fruition alum who's worked alongside Brunson at Masterpiece Deli for several years, is as impressive as any in Denver.

In snapshots, here's the culmination of their efforts from my dinner at Wild Catch on Monday night.

Tower of king fish crudo, watermelon, cucumbers and fresh herbs wreathed with citrus olive oil. A scaled-down version of Brunson's fish charcuterie plate, stamped with house-pickled vegetables, housemade mustard and grilled bread. Butter-grilled lobster tail, grilled frisee, fried green tomatoes, micro chervil, and beurre blanc bobbing with steelhead roe. Saltine-crusted, deep-fried oyster pooled in a Olathe corn puree and sided with Stranahan's whiskey-barbecued mustard greens scattered with Brunson's own bacon. Pan-seared diver scallops accompanied by a green bean and heirloom tomato salad dressed with a pistachio vinaigrette. Brined and wood-grilled arctic char with a butter lettuce and herb salad drizzled with Ranch dressing -- or as Brunson calls it, "America sauce" -- and sweet corn and crab fritters. Pan-roasted sea bass straddling crème fraîche potatoes and spinach ringed in a black truffle demi. Smoked Tender Belly pork chop with "porky" baked beans and an apple-fennel slaw.

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