Flavors: Juliano’s Restaurant Closes after Flavoring Montana for 28 Years
Juliano’s Restaurant will be closing at the end of this year. Executive Chef Carl Kurokawa and partners Dave McCurdy and Tim Keating are shuttering the iconic restaurant they opened in March of 1995. The establishment located in the hospital corridor in the stable building of the 1902 Austin North house, better known as “the Castle” will serve its last meal on December 23.
After Kurokawa completed his culinary training at Hawaii Community College in Hilo he worked at several places in Hawaii including the Kona Surf Hotel and the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. When a group of now friends arrived on the island to fish, Kurokawa made his first connection to Billings.
He eventually moved to Billings in 1980 to open the restaurant at the Sheraton Hotel as executive sous chef. Later he worked as the executive chef at the Riverside Country Club in Bozeman. In 1987 he returned to Billings as the executive chef of the Northern Hotel before serving six years at DeVerniero’s Ristorante.
Keating worked as a server with Kurokawa at DeVerniero’s Ristorante when he was in college. After graduating he began work at Q2 where he met Dave McCurdy. When the restaurant went up for sale, the trio joined forces to buy it. Kurokawa did not know McCurdy at the time, but trusted Keating’s connection with him.
“I wanted to change the name, but there were issues over there with changing the name, so we left it Juliano’s which was good because my wife’s name is Julianne also. It just worked out,” Kurokawa shared. “I was actually looking at naming it Yasu. Yasu was my dad’s name and my son’s middle name.” “Yasu is also a Greek greeting.”
Over the years Kurokawa served European inspired food infused with world flavors and influences from his Asian roots. In the beginning, “Phone calls to my mother got me the Asian influence in there and now we just kind of put it all together and worked it through.”
The menu items required work and thought, “I do the research and I think of the flavors that will go together well and put my own little twist on that.”
For Billings and Montana, Kurokawa was ahead of his time. “I just wanted to be the progressive individual here as far as in the food business.” His goal was to highlight local products with world flavors whenever possible.
He broadened many palates with his progressive cooking style. ‘I tell my buddies in Hawaii, ‘You know I am on this big wave right now, and it’s a nice ride, but it will soon come to an end. I want it to come to a good end, in that sense so why I am doing it the way we are doing it. For instance, not closing the door and leaving a note on the door.’”
Over the years, Juliano’s Restaurant became one of the popular places for ladies’ lunches. Although the menu changed often, one item remained over the years. The favorite dish of Crispy Battered Chicken and Grapefruit Salad served on fresh greens with a citrus vinaigrette and honey roasted pecans will be missed the most.
Fresh fish and seafood were always available. Global influenced offerings included: Octopus and Seaweed Risotto, Lamb Stuffed Grape Leaves and Shrimp, Salmon, and Pineapple Ceviche. Also, a steak option was always included.
For 19 years, Chef Seth Carlson worked alongside Kurokawa, honing his skills over the years. He shared of the future, “Right now I just really want to finish the ride, taking a quick trip with the family.” He will be heading to Cleveland with his wife and two sons, age 5 ½ and 2 ½.
Co-owner Tim Keating shared of closing this chapter, “It’s been a great run. I’m really pleased to be a part of the group that got to allow Carl to create food in Billings, Montana for people who were foodies and loved food.”
Of Kurokawa, Keating said, “He is really Juliano’s and it’s not Juliano’s without Carl, and so Carl is the real reason that we’ve been successful for 29 years. He had a vision that he wanted to create food and do food his way for people and he was ahead of his time.”