Chow Town

Jax Fish House brings sustainable seafood to town

Seafood on ice at Jax
Seafood on ice at Jax

I was excited to learn of the arrival of Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar. Jax has set up shop in building housing the new national headquarters of the Polsinelli Law Firm.

The new JJ’s also calls the sleek Country Club Plaza building home, promising to make the area near West 48th Street and Roanoke Parkway a hip, hot and happening place to be.

Jax was certainly hopping the night I stopped by for a chat with owner and Jax founder, Dave Query. The conversation and the food were enjoyable — the conversation thanks in large part to Query’s easygoing manner and engaging personality, and the food because, well, because it was delicious.

Before I get to that, let me provide a little background on Jax, which is part of the Big Red F Restaurant Group. The First Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar in Boulder, Colo., is has been in business for 20 years.

From the beginning, Jax has been about serving the freshest seasonal, sustainable seafood available. It takes sustainability seriously and it is the first restaurant in Colorado to be certified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

“We were already 95 percent of the way toward certification, so we decided to go ahead and go for it,” Query said. “I think we had to change three or four of our products. We did that and got the certification a couple of months ago.”

Jax has a number of catchy slogans about sustainability on its website. They’re things like “Don’t be shellfish, ONLY eat sustainable seafood,” and “Know seafood or No seafood.”

But, sustainability is much more than a marketing tool for Jax, it’s a philosophy guided by a concern about global oceanic fish stocks. And, as Query said, “Every decision we make is guided by that concern.”

But why create a sustainable seafood restaurant — or a series of sustainable seafood restaurants — in the middle of the country, thousands of miles from either coast?

As yet another slogan on the website says, “Bringing the coasts to the coastless.” Query said it’s not that big of a stretch. It’s just a matter of how you think of it.

“We consider airports as seaports, and airplanes as boats,” Query told me over a dozen oysters on the half shell.

“I mean, they fly lobsters from Maine to Seattle and Pacific Oysters from the Puget Sounds to New York City, so why couldn’t we get product from both the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coast flown to Denver, where we’re based, and then here to Kansas City?

“Our product costs $2 more a pound, but it’s as fresh as 98 percent of the restaurants on the Pacific or Atlantic coast,” he said. “We can call a fisherman in Hawaii at 11 a.m., Bolder time, and have it fresh on our doorstep at 9 a.m.” the next day.

Query and Jax are all about sustainability, and the seasons play a big role in that. Jax shows customers what seafood is in season and featuring that product.

There’s no better example of that than Jax’s oyster offerings. Query said they might have 50 or more different kinds of oysters featured throughout the year based on availability.

When I visited, Jax had only been open a few weeks. The restaurant already has featured some two dozen different varieties, and there will be many more on Jax’s raw bar in the days, weeks, and months ahead. It’s part of Query and Jax’s commitment to sustainability, and to providing the freshest, most diverse selection of seafood they can.

As an unabashed oyster lover, that sounds absolutely awesome to me. I plan on not being “shellfish,” and only eating sustainable seafood quite often this year, which I guess will make me a Jax regular.

Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, for nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents.