Only four dishes at the new Flora’s Market Run restaurant constitute the Crudo Bar section of its 25-dish menu, yet there are three full-time employees dedicated exclusively to its operations.
Crudo means “raw” in Italian, and this kind of staffing ratio suggests that the raw fish element of the Flora’s story is as significant as the wood-fired pizza, house-made pasta, grilled meats, and other elements.
At the center of the story is Kyle Nottingham, chef/partner with Tucson-based Ares Collective which owns and operates Flora’s Market Run at 2513 E. 6th Street. But he’s not talking about items that you might see at a conventional raw bar. He’s talking crudo, a chef-driven program which elevates the raw food conversation.
“Crudo is really a balanced and composed dish,” said Nottingham. “There are elements of acid, of fat, of texture, and it’s about taking the nuances of whatever raw fish you’re working with and amplifying it with other ingredients.”
To further amplify the offering, Nottingham brought longtime fish monger Jamie TeBockhorst to the Flora’s team after 20 years of seafood superintendency at Canyon Ranch. “Jamie brings an incredible amount of knowledge and close relationships with sustainable purveyors which makes our fish program pretty impressive,” he said. “He’s a big deal.”
Leading off the Crudo Bar menu is the Hamachi Crudo, with raw yellowtail, fresh citrus, and a grapefruit, orange, and sesame vinaigrette. The dish is topped with thinly sliced serrano chiles, fresh greens, and Maldon salt.
“This is a simple and light dish with a crunch of salinity from the salt,” he said. “Hamachi is a delicate fish and we didn’t want to overcomplicate it.”
Tuna has a starring role on the Crudo Bar menu as well with the Torched Ahi. The raw fish is rubbed with togarashi, a Japanese spice blend, and torched to produce a light crust. It’s plated with watermelon that’s been compressed to produce the same deep red color as the ahi and then dressed with a cherry blossom-infused soy sauce.
“This is a nice, bright, cooling, perfect for the summer crudo,” he said. “And what’s fun is when the ahi and watermelon take on the same color, some people can’t tell the difference visually between the two.
The Crudo Bar also has an option for landlubbers, and the Kobe Wagyu Beef is a carnivorous variation on the crudo theme. It starts with shaved raw Wagyu beef from Texas which is topped with fried Brussels sprouts, fried chiles, and roasted peanuts, and dressed with a sweet ponzu sauce.
“The Wagyu gives you all of that great marbling and fat, which is a nice contrast to the crunch from the Brussels and peanuts, as well as from the chiles that we cook down for hours, frying them in their own oil to render a dark, crispy, Sambal-style sauce,” he said.
Rounding out the Crudo Bar menu are Oysters Al Fresca, a rotating selection of raw oysters that are sourced from the waters of some of the world’s oyster capitals. They’re served with mignonettes, horseradish, hot sauce, and lemon.
“We don’t just look at what oysters are available, we only bring in those that meet our harvest date specifications,” he said. “We’re highlighting a different oyster almost every other night.”
Consider going crudo on your next visit to Flora’s Market Run. Start with a dish or two before you dive into a Mercado Pizza, the Short Rib Bolognese, or the Sumac-Crusted Lamb. You might find that raw can really be rad.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.