Tahk Omakase expands space, adds to concept in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

Tahk Omakase expands space, adds to concept in Steamboat Springs

John Ames, owner of Tahk Omakase, and his restaurant manager Sash Firstenberg stand in their newly expanded restaurant space in downtown Steamboat Springs. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In December 2019, John Ames brought traditional Japanese sushi to Steamboat Springs with the opening of Tahk Omakase, and now, the owner and executive chef is expanding his concept and staff and adding lunch service.

“I want this town to see that this restaurant is growing,” said Ames, who used his Korean name, Tahk Sung-Tae, to name his restaurant. “Tahk Omakase is expanding to develop another concept — that concept is creating an intimate cocktail ambiance with a Japanese lounge.”

That idea started to take shape early last summer when Rootz cafe owner Fawn Racoma decided to close the doors of the restaurant at 737 Lincoln Ave. and expand operations at her sister cafe Seedz, which is located just a few blocks away at 1117 Lincoln Ave.

Ames saw the space, which shares an entrance with his restaurant, as an opportunity to gain more seating in the short term, as well as a place he needed to pursue some longer-term goals.

“March 15, last year, when the pandemic started, I had a game plan already,” Ames said. “I knew that with COVID there were going to be restrictions on how many people can come in. When I took over that space, I had more tables, and I had more seats … so it helped us a lot.”

The additional seating was just one of the changes Ames made in the wake of the pandemic. He also added takeout to his menu, which was key during the shutdowns.

“I hate to say it, but COVID did not affect us,” Ames said. “It made us better, it made us busier and that’s the reason why we were expanding.”

This summer, Ames will be adding lunch to Tahk Omakase’s lineup serving customers from 11:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The restaurant opens for dinner at 4:30 p.m. each night Tuesday through Saturday.

Looking to the future, Ames has a clear vision for what he hopes to do with the additional space, and he plans to renovate the space starting April 11 when the restaurant closes down for the shoulder season.

“Our goal is that when you step into this space it feels like you’re stepping into Japan,” said Sash Firstenberg, who came to Tahk Omakase when it first opened after working at Low Country Kitchen and Café Diva. “That’s where chef traveled, where he visited, and that’s where his inspirations come from. We want it to be elegant, high end with low lighting. We want it to have that cocktail lounge feel where you can like hanging out and relaxing.”

Ames said Firstenberg has been key to the success of the business by handling much of the operations and allowing him to find time to focus on his craft. He said the new space will be centered around the Omakase sushi bar, which is the backbone of his concept.

The new Omakase bar, which offers a high-end, traditional Edomae-style sushi, now seats 10 people and offers a two-hour dining experience.

Firstenberg said reservations are required for this highly sought-after experience, which offers an intimate dining experience with the main sushi chef who creates the menu with top-quality, sustainable ingredients from the Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan. Featured ingredients will include bluefin tuna, golden eye snapper and yellowtail, as well as several types of sea urchins and salmon. The meal also includes appetizers and a selection of sake.

Tahk Omakase offers two seatings on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and three on Fridays and Saturdays.

The lounge features a Japanese whiskey bar and an extensive sake offering, and Ames plans to add cocktails and other adult beverages to his current offering of beer and wine. Customers can also enjoy small plates and will have a place to wait until their table is ready.

The area downstairs will also see some changes as the former Omakase bar is turned into a walk-up sushi bar. The area will continue to offer Izakaya, a more pub-oriented menu with small plates for customers.

Ames said the quality of the food and the service has helped Tahk Omakase build a strong following in Steamboat over the past year and a half.

Ames, who serves as executive chef, said he has assembled one of the strongest teams of chefs in the business with all of them having at least 20 years of experience. Sushi chefs are Koji Maesto and Hide Tsuzuki, and the restaurant’s Izakaya chef Ty Wagner. This summer he is expanding his staff with the addition of head chef Kaoru Ishii from New York as well as sushi chef Seung Han from Dallas.

Ames said his talented chefs will be working with top quality fish brought in from Japan.

“That’s our signature,” Ames said of the quality of the ingredients. “That’s why we have been so successful.”

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