Flawless prime, Angus, and grass-fed steaks. Floor-to-ceiling wine cellar. Doting wait staff. All of the above are mainstays at Guard and Grace, Troy Guard’s popular downtown steakhouse. But as of last week, the menu at the five-year-old spot has received a worthy facelift, thanks to new executive chef Khamla Vongsakoun and TAG Restaurant Group’s executive dream team.
Vongsakoun, who most recently led the kitchen at Departure Restaurant & Lounge (which closed last March), was excited to introduce new menu items that both embrace Guard and Grace’s steak house roots and showcase dishes heightened by flavors from around the world. Born in Laos and raised in Denver, Vongsakoun drew on his experiences in top kitchens from Las Vegas to Philadelphia, as well as the knowledge of his executive culinary team—and even that of his line cooks.
Not only does Vongsakoun invite Kyle Biddy, his sous chef, and other line cooks to contribute ideas and dishes to Guard and Grace’s menus, but he works closely with Denver restaurant veterans Korey Sims (who returned to the group in June as corporate chef after a stint at Breckenridge’s Aurum) and Jorel Pierce (the longtime Crafted Concepts chef who moved into a new role as TAG’s culinary director in late 2018), too. “It doesn’t have to be all about me or Troy. It’s a compilation menu,” Vongsakoun says. “If I’m going to have a team, I’m going to use every bit of knowledge and experience we have.”
An updated sushi program, led by Hawaiian-native executive sous chef Anthony Gonzales, a sushi pro who’s done stints at TAG and Mister Tuna, enhances Guard and Grace’s well-known raw bar offerings; there are two new rolls and two new sashimi plates on the menu. Especially keep an eye out for the spicy tuna crunch roll, which is filled with grilled shishito peppers, cucumbers, and chives, topped with spicy tuna, and coated in crispy squid ink tempura crumbs for textural pop. A Colorado wildflower garnish is a lovely touch.
Fans of Departure will appreciate one new menu item, in particular: Vongsakoun’s show-stopping fried whole Alamosa striped bass, a beloved dish at the now-closed Cherry Creek spot. The flaky fish, curled around a sweet, tangy, spicy green mango salad, is strewn with torn fresh mint, cilantro, and Thai basil, and sliced Fresno chiles. One major change from the Departure dish ensures that the fish’s crispy fried skin stays so: At Guard and Grace, a Thai chile vinaigrette is drizzled over the fish tableside.
Other not-to-miss dishes include the roasted beet and burrata appetizer, which is like a taste of summer in Colorado. At first, the stunning sight of electric-pink beet purée juxtaposed against snow-white burrata, grilled yellow Palisade peaches, and verdant arugula may keep you from digging in—but once you taste the salad with its Aleppo chile, citrus-hazelnut vinaigrette, and truffle honey, you won’t be able to stop yourself.
For a break from steak, try the Indian-inspired Colorado lamb. Vongsakoun crusts the loin with house-made garam masala before searing it, then serves the tender meat over a curry-tomato coulis, eggplant, and fresh peas, with mint yogurt bringing balance to the plate.
Finally, since executive pastry chef Joy William’s creations are as visually stunning as they are delicious, opting for a sweet ending at Guard and Grace is a no-brainer. Consider the stunning cherry ricotta cheesecake, plated as a layered, circular dessert, that begins with a bed of cherry geleé, then a ring of baked ricotta cheesecake studded with plump, charred fresh cherries, pieces of peppered graham crackers, and Morello cherry sorbet.
Ready to be delighted by an establishment where the old and new flourish side by side? Perfect. The all-star team at Guard and Grace is ready for you.