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Challenging Elements


Restaurant: Tiller’s Kitchen and Bar
Ingredient: Wasabi

Have you ever drunk wasabi? Neither had I, a fact that was foremost in my mind when Sean Rush, the Food and Beverage Director at Tiller’s Kitchen & Bar, said he was starting us off with a cocktail. But whatever reservations I harbored dissolved as soon as I sipped the concoction, while Rush explained the drink’s genesis.

“I made a ginger and vanilla liqueur in the last couple weeks. So I steeped crystalized ginger with orange peel and vanilla bean. I used the ginger liqueur, and last night we made some wasabi vodka.”

Crisp and perky, the cocktail resembled a sinus-clearing Moscow Mule, but with a zesty kick you’ll only find in wasabi-infused vodka. The following food, unsurprisingly, stacked up to the standard set by the aperitif. The first course—peanut seared ahi tuna with wasabi radish kimchi—took a traditional wasabi motif and spun it into a rich and tangy appetizer, a far—and tasty—cry from its sushi-derived ingredients. The kimchi (in this case fermented radish, I had to ask) kicked my taste buds as much as the wasabi. As Sous-Chef Ryan Van Buskirk warned: “It packs a little punch, so be careful.”

This creativity is garnering attention for Tiller’s, which is proving to be much more than your run-of-the-mill hotel restaurant.

“Every time I’m out here and listen to guests, they’re wowed by the look and presentation,” says Rush. “They’re surprised. I’ve been told numerous times that this is not a ‘hotel restaurant.’ I think we’re doing a really good job of changing the perspective.”

Rush and executive chef Jason Stiles invoke a local, Colorado-based approach to food sourcing, along with a hyper-local inspiration for the menu: many of the ingredients and themes were chosen because Rush and Stiles were growing them in the backyard. Whatever the inspiration, it’s working. Just two months after opening the doors, Tiller’s is ranked fourth in quality of food out of the 356 Marriots in America.

The main course, a pan seared scallop with beet puree and lemongrass wasabi foam, continued to raise the gastronomic bar, and was matched by the afternoon’s dessert: wasabi ginger ice cream with a delicate sesame crisp. So next time you’re speeding down US 36 and find yourself hankering for comfortably classy modern fare, stop in to Tiller’s—if you like it enough, you can even stay the night.

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