115 W. Colorado Ave, Telluride 970/239-6025
Pescado, Telluride’s newest raw bar, isn’t new to locals.
Owner Brady Pitt ran Pescado from 2009 until 2011, when it was behind the now-defunct Llama. Having closed the restaurant when the Llama shut its doors, Pitt, a Telluride local since 1999, worked odd jobs, at one point working a chainsaw in a fire-mitigation business.
“I’m all right with a chainsaw, but I’m much better with a chef’s knife,” he said.
So, on Labor Day, Pitt reopened Pescado, in a new location, next to the Floradora on main street. The location is well-known to locals – it’s where the Sweet Life use to be.
“When the Sweet Life closed, I decided to set up shop here,” he said. “I thought it was a great location, and plenty of folks already knew where it was.”
For years, the Sweet Life gave Telluride a retro-style burger joint complete with a jukebox, booths and milkshakes. But since Pitt took over the restaurant, any semblance of Americana nostalgia is gone, replaced with a contemporary Asian atmosphere – perfect for everything from a first date or a celebration with friends.
But the loss of Sweet Life hasn’t deterred locals from enjoying this space. On this particular night, I shook hands with nearly a half-dozen friends and acquaintances I’ve come to know.
What stands out is that the kitchen is now enclosed in a gorgeous wood and metal wall featuring Asian undertones that Brady helped construct.
“Opening up Pescado this time around was a real learning experience,” he said. “That wall wasn’t easy, but we got it done.”
Opening a small business in Telluride is a challenge, he said, but sushi comes naturally to this roll master.
“For sushi, we serve the classics and a few specialty rolls,” he said. “For those who don’t like sushi, we’ve got plenty of other options, including meat on a stick ($10 to $12), veggie and/or shrimp tempura ($8 to $12) or a fresh udon bowl ($17). We try to accommodate all types of taste buds.”
If you’re looking for a sushi fix after work, swing by and check out Pescado’s happy hour special,5-6 p.m., featuring half-priced Telluride Brewing Company beers ($3), the roll of the day and a small house sake ($12) or chicken teriyaki and a bowl of piping-hot salted edamame ($15) – or a soup, salad and your choice of spicy, crunch shrimp or tuna roll ($20).
But if you’re there to munch on some rolls, read through Pitt’s simple, straightforward, no-nonsense menu.
Questions? Pitt or any of his staff are there to help.
Sipping sake and between edamame pods, Pitt served his beautiful Caterpillar and El Martillo rolls. The elegant Caterpillar was fantastic; you can tell he’s been making it for years, perfecting portions and ingredient selection, not to mention appearance. But the jewel in the crown is his El Martillo. Sprinkled with crispy jalapeños and stuffed with generous portions of spicy tuna, this roll is such a fun balance of flavors and textures that I had to order a second.
With a kind smile, Pitt said, “I knew you’d like that one.”
Jalapeño isn’t a traditional sushi ingredient, but Telluride, so close to border states, has a Latin flair in much of its cuisine, as is evidenced by the name of Pitt’s restaurant.
“We’re Pescado because we used to be next to a Mexican restaurant,” he said, “It sort of stuck, so why change it?”
But what stole the show was Pitt’s yellowtail sashimi, topped with a thin slice of jalapeño sitting in a layer of ponzu. Each slice is butter-soft, with a spicy underpinning from that pepper.
High up in the Rocky Mountains, on a snowy March evening, enjoying rich food and effective libations, we agreed that life couldn’t get much better.
THE VIBE: Casual. Come as you are, preferably in groups, because the drink menu is great for conversation, and, after a couple, you’ll be merry and well-fed.
PRICE POINT: Fish in Telluride: typically not cheap. But Pitt has made strides to lower the cost of his rolls, making every option reasonably-priced and, in some spots, a downright great deal. Plus, check out that happy hour menu.
Open Monday through Sunday, 5-9:30 p.m.