One of Warsaw’s best-loved chefs hits the mark again with his latest sea-minded project…
Located within shouting distance of the river, Tuna’s convenient coordinates do not automatically make it easy to find – actually entered from Tamka, find it positioned down a discreet little path that’s easy to miss. Many end up circling the building once before realizing the error of their ways. Still, this ‘in the know’ vibe acts in its favor. Though found in the trendiest wedge of Powiśle, its inward-looking location gives Tuna the feel of a ‘destination’ restaurant.
Yes, it most certainly is. For that, much credit goes to Medusa Group, a design studio whose previous projects have included Hala Koszyki and Warsaw’s Nobu Hotel. Working in tandem with co-owners Martin and David, the final look is nothing but a triumph of creativity.
“We could have just filled the place with beautiful pictures of fish,” says David, “but that’s been done before.” Instead, 18,000 tuna cans sheathe the walls. Painstakingly placed one-by-one, the effect purposefully brings to mind the scales of a fish, whilst simultaneously spotlighting the restaurant’s zero waste ethos.
As elegant and refined as it feels, there’s a casual confidence at play and this is boldly marked by the square bar that takes the central stage. With bar-top dining still a rarity in Warsaw, this alone is quite a statement to make. “We want to show people that to eat good food you don’t always need to sit at a table,” says Martin.
Smartly appointed in dark metallic colors, punches of wood add warmth to the aesthetic, and the look is rounded out by the presence of an open kitchen and display cases of fish.
Martin Gimenez Castro, an Argentinean chef who first rose to the public’s notice after winning the inaugural season of Top Chef Polska in 2013. Professionally, much has changed since this triumph. First, there was a stint at the head of Salto, a hotel restaurant that competed with the best during Warsaw’s brief mania for fine dining.
Striking out on his own, he then launched Ceviche Bar, a place that saw Castro showcase his South American upbringing to stunning effect – having survived the Covid shutdowns, it continues to flourish as one of Poland’s most exhilarating ethnic restaurants.
It’s stunning consistency, however, has proved a double-edged sword. “When you’ve got such a good team behind you,” admits Martin, “you don’t always need to be there.” The time had come for a new challenge.
“As a chef you’re always on the lookout to create something new, and I’d been thinking of opening a fish restaurant for quite some time,” he says. “At the top of my mind though, I wanted it to do something different with this core ingredient.”
A Dynamic Duo
Though Castro’s name looms over the door, this is by no means a one-man show. Jointly created with his long-time friend, David Racchi, the latter’s impact has also been copious. A branding and design expert, his CV includes the joint realization of the Nobu Hotel’s wayfinding system, the hotel branding of The Bridge in Wrocław (this Insider’s stay of choice when visiting the city), and the creation of the visual identity of the F&B options in the Raffles Europejski. It is his eye for detail and knowledge of what constitutes bleeding-edge that has given Tuna its final sense of ‘woomph’.
On The Plate
Much like thieves in a bank, the Insider likes to adopt a “give us everything you’ve got” attitude when visiting restaurants – for this reason, our table soon resembles an A-Z of marine biology. And a tasty one at that.
Where once fish was a problematic ingredient to source, nowadays supply lines ensure that you can enjoy such dishes as bluefin tuna just hours after it was caught off the coast of Spain.
“I would not have opened a fish restaurant if I did not have full confidence in the product,” says Martin. “Being a chef, you want to envy the customer and that’s exactly how I feel here when I’m cooking in the kitchen.”
You understand where he’s coming from. At Tuna, you will find classics such as Gillardeau No. 2 oysters served on ice, or premium Antonius five star Siberian caviar, but the true thrill lies in exploring the chef’s more unexpected flights of fancy: at PLN 85, the ‘fish platter’ is a supreme example, presenting as it does tuna sausages, corvina mortadella and salmon jerky. Marinated for two days before being slow-dried, the latter is particularly sublime.
Eyebrows are again approvingly raised with the tuna ‘nduja (PLN 22) – spicy but not overwhelmingly so, the kick is just enough to act as a pleasing surprise; elsewhere, tuna tartare (PLN 60-80) is everything you want it to be and a little bit more.
Of the top sellers, its easy to understand why the chili con tuna (PLN 55) has been such a hit. And then, there’s the piece de resistance, an elaborately constructed dorada tail (PLN 42) whose meat has been first removed and minced before being returned inside a crispy black tempura. Even the pickled kohlrabi that accompanies it merits a round of applause.
An ecstasy of tastes, Tuna succeeds in reimagining everything you thought you knew about eating fish. Creative but never silly, this restaurant is a heartfelt celebration of seafood, one that pushes boundaries without ever doing so just for the sake of it.
That this is done in such an intelligently designed space speaks much for the clear-headed concept that binds it altogether. In a nutshell (or should that be seashell), this is what excellence looks and tastes like.
Elektryczna 2, tuna-restaurant.pl