In a landlocked state like Montana, fresh seafood is often seen as a rarity or something we travel out-of-state to experience. For some Montanans, enjoying a seafood dish means visiting one of the few Bozeman restaurants that serve sushi for a colorful Maki roll. Other Treasure State natives have only sampled fresh seafood while traveling out of state, often returning home raving about the candy-like salmon they feasted on in Sitka, Alaska. So the idea of a Bozeman seafood scene even existing seems unimaginable. However, at Feast Raw Bar & Bistro, their culinary team tackles the impossible and delivers miracles for thousands of Bozeman diners to enjoy: serving fresh, high-quality seafood every day.
Feast’s entire business model revolves around fresh seafood, a daunting feat for a restaurant in Montana. Many of Feast’s customers are surprised to hear about how challenging it is for a restaurant like Feast to consistently deliver top-quality, fresh, unique seafood dishes. They simply get to enjoy the stunning results (and rich flavors) of months of planning out fish orders, years of intensive culinary training, and decades of restaurant experience.
Steve Kuntz, co-owner of Feast Raw Bar & Bistro, comments on the scarcity of a Montana seafood culture, something that, in the end, makes Feast both unique and in-demand in a city like Bozeman. “There isn’t a lot of fish culture or seafood eating culture around here aside from the fisherman cooking a trout on the side of the river.” Steve says. “Most people have a connection to other places with seafood or some people who come here desire a connection to seafood. The culture [in Bozeman] is more “shipped-in” and pushed by demand from the consumer based on a prior place that they lived or traveled to.”
That lack of Bozeman seafood culture is what actually prompted Steve and the Feast team to build their business model on fresh seafood. Steve, who trained at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, has always had a passion for seafood and noticed the need for a fresh seafood restaurant in Bozeman. “We looked at the market and realized that fresh seafood was the biggest hole in the market, in terms of what Bozeman didn’t have,” Steve says. “I had been working with wholesale fish markets for a few years and knew what was possible, so I realized Feast Raw Bar & Bistro would be a good way to do something fun and unique and to distinguish ourselves.”
Every restaurant in the industry faces hurdles that need to be overcome in order to continue being successful. And Feast, which was voted #1 Restaurant in Bozeman in the Bozeman’s Choice Reader’s Poll in 2023, is no exception. Steve says timing is the biggest challenge of being a fresh seafood restaurant. “We are really focused on getting in fish and selling it within a couple of days,” Steve explains. “We try to order just enough to fulfill orders, and then we have another order lined up behind that to keep us going. If the timing isn’t just right, we run out of fish. But we can’t front load, because it will show up and you’ll have 100 pounds of fish you can’t sell before it goes bad.”
For Steve, mastering the timing of fish deliveries also bolsters trust between Feast and its customers—by timing fish orders accurately, customers get to enjoy high-quality fish at its peak freshness, and, therefore, have the satisfying dining experience that they deserve. “I’d rather sell out than waste product and lose the trust of our customer base,” Steve says. “Our customers put a lot of trust in us, and to break that trust is not acceptable. Would rather run out of something or not use it than sell a subpar product that isn’t at the peak of its freshness. We don’t want to just be another stereotypical ‘Montana seafood place’.”
Because of that dedication to maintaining trust, thousands of customers flock to Feast Raw Bar & Bistro every year to relish a Bozeman seafood experience they would typically have to travel outside Montana for. Sitting down for a dinner at Feast means taking a culinary trip around the world as you, fittingly, feast upon Trumpeter Sea Bass from Hawaii, Blue Nose Snapper from New Zealand, scallops from Maine, and, a signature experience at Feast, oysters from Massachusetts.
However, simply choosing unique, fresh seafood selections isn’t enough. Not for the chefs at Feast. Steve and his culinary team craft intentional, strategic dishes that use bright, memorable flavors and still allow the seafood to be the center of attention. When creating truly delicious seafood dishes, Steve emphasizes the importance of balance on the plate and in the preparation. “The fish needs to be the star of the plate,” Steve says. “Chef Nikki Dupre (Executive Chef at Feast Raw Bar & Bistro) is great at layering flavors and finding ingredients that complement the main flavor of the fish rather than overpowering it. We like to have layers of flavor to make the dish unique, but we want to make sure they are subtle when called for. Simplicity is important.”
When cooking these delicate pieces of fish, the Feast team spends considerable time honing their skills to precisely and perfectly prepare every type of seafood. “You can have the best fish in the world and overcook it really easily,” Steve says. “We work really hard to make sure our chefs are fine-tuned in their cooking processes. Not overcooked, undercooked, but just perfect.” Along with preparing seafood, Feast trains its serve team to educate and set expectations with guests ahead of time so they know Feast’s standards for preparing ingredients. “It gives the customer time to let us know their personal preferences,” Steve explains. “We try with every plate to get it perfect.”
Not only does Steve and his team provide a diverse selection of fresh seafood to enjoy and craft the dishes with exquisite care, but they ensure they source their seafood sustainably. With overfishing being a pressing issue across the world, Feast ensures that they only source their seafood from fisheries who pay attention and respond to this problem. “Sustainability is part of our ethos,” Steve says. “We want to support those fisheries that are paying attention to this issue [of overfishing]. When you eat at Feast, you are supporting sustainable fisheries.”
While we can’t smell the salty breeze of the ocean from our Montana mountaintops, the Bozeman seafood culture is steadily being meticulously built dish by dish by the team at Feast Raw Bar & Bistro, offering locals an incomparable dining experience. When asked to sum up in three words why Feast is the place to dine for seafood, Steve laughed and asked if he could have five instead. “Fresh, cooked perfectly, hospitable environment,” he said with a smile. To reserve your table for Feast Raw Bar & Bistro, click here or call (406) 577-2377.