Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The chefs also offered a dish which they were testing for future menu placement. They came up with a bacon and panko crusted pork tenderloin. The pork had a nice crust and was very flavorful, served with two garnishes - carmelized okra and a butter bean, turnip, and corn puree. Unfortunately the okra didn't work for me. When okra is cooked for a long time, it develops this (excuse me) snotty consistency and it just grossed me out. However, the corn puree was absolutely wonderful with a hummus like texture, very sweet and delicious. We ended our night with Meditrina's drunken oreos - oreo cookies drenched in red wine served under creamy vanilla ice cream over which a port reduction is poured. Crunchy, gooey, creamy, and chocolately all in a few small cookies. Very unique and really good - a great way to end an evening of many small plates.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The restaurant is run by students who are enrolled in a "restaurant class". Students who take the class are actually getting course credit to work in the restaurant. The student-chefs rotate through all aspects of kitchen prep and hot/cold line work executing dishes in a timely manner, as well as working front of house service as the host/hostess, servers, and bussers. The rationale for such a restaurant class is a great idea. It gives students a chance to get some experience with cooking on a restaurant line - which is presumably where the majority of students will end up right after they graduate. The experience also forces students who are training to be chefs to become servers - a position that most cooks will never normally have. It really gives the students a chance to see all aspects of a functional restaurant and give them a broad perspective of what it takes for a restaurant to be successful.
The Savory Palate is a small dining room adjacent to one of the school's teaching kitchens. The students are in a veritable fish bowl as the wall separating the kitchen and dining room is made of glass. The students are on display being watched eagerly by their waiting customers. The Savory Palate serves up a 3 course meal for $12.95 with choice of starter, entree, dessert, and beverage. The menu rotates and is based on dishes the students have mastered in a previous course called American Regional Cuisine.
For my entree I had the smothered pork chops with orange-scented sweet potato and roasted butternut squash. The plating - again - was very much what you'd expect from culinary students. It was a nicely composed plate of the sweet potato which was piped onto the plate and browned, atop which the pork chop sat with sauteed onions and mushrooms placed on top. Roasted squash was delicately placed around the edge of the pork chop. My first impression of the dish was that it wasn't bad flavor-wise but definitely was not the most memorable of dishes. The pork was a touch dry and the food came out a little lukewarm...but really overall - it was a great effort.
People at the table commented on how the orange in the sweet potato was too over-powering but I actually found the flavor to be quite nice, adding some dimension and depth to the monotonous sweetness in the potato. What would have really made the dish for me though would have been a sauce to bring all of the elements on the plate together. A sauce would have tied things together nicely as well as provided some moisture to the dryness of the pork. The other entree option was the pecan-encrusted catfish served with the slow-cooked greens and the same orange-sweet potato. To be honest, I didn't try it but it got pretty good reviews around the table. Again, people seemed to like it but weren't swearing that it was the best meal they ever had.
For dessert I ordered the chocolate-banana parfait but was informed while we were eating our entree that they had run out. So I got the pecan tart instead. The tart was very good - crunchy pecans surrounded by a sweet, gooey filling overwhich a large scoop of whipped cream lay. It was a nice ending to the meal. Also ordered at our table was a fruit tart. Again, very culinary school looking. Sweet dough upon which vanilla pastry cream sits, on top of which various fruits are placed - a very classic French style pastry. Also quite good. Our server came by and actually dropped off a complimentary chocolate-banana parfait as well as a complimentary mango cake. I guess she realized they actually weren't out of the chocolate-banana parfait - or perhaps she just realized that I was having lunch with one of her culinary school instructors and she wanted to make a good impression. Either way it worked out for me. The chocolate-banana parfait was awesome. Nice banana cream, fresh and bright tasting, married with a deep chocolate mousse - airy but firm. With four desserts to finish the meal off with, who could complain? You know what they say - your company may forget about dinner, but they'll always remember dessert.
The Savory Palate at the Art Institute of Salt Lake City
121 W. Election Road
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
There has been a wave of new burger joints to open up all through the Salt Lake metro area. Some are local ventures while most are franchises of national chains. It’s become very obvious that with so many different burger places around, having a unique twist or gimmick is essential to standing out, being noticed, and getting customers in. Places are smashing their burgers, putting gourmet spins on burgers, or offering a deluge of strange toppings to get people hooked. I’ve been meaning to try some of these places out although I’m a little skeptical of the schtick. I just hate when your food has to have a gimmick in order for it to be good.
I ran across Scaddy’s while running an errand at Costco and the restaurant supply store Bintz’s. Scaddy’s is located in a strip mall right across the street from each of the aforementioned stores. I noticed the Scaddy’s sign which read, “where fresh taste is everything”. I was intrigued since it looked like your run of the mill burger joint unfortunately located in a strip mall. Being the skeptic that I am, I decided to check out what this new places’s gimmick was….something about freshness…I guessed that perhaps they had devised different types of fresh salads that came on top of your burger….or something like that.
When I walked in though, I quickly saw a very standard, small and simple menu: hand-battered chicken, about 6 different kinds of burgers, a couple of different cold sandwiches as well as some salads, sides, and ice cream. The restaurant has a very standard fast food kind of feel with a semi-sports-bar atmosphere with a few flat screen TVs thrown in. I asked the cashier what their “freshness” sign was about and she replied that they make everything from scratch – they don’t use any frozen products. Mmm…interesting I thought. When I probed a little further about this topic, I did get a little more detail. The main ingredients are all fresh, but they don’t make their own bread, ketchup, ice cream, etc. – however they pride themselves on not using frozen products like burger patties, frozen french fries or onion rings. And they do make some of their own sauces and dressings. Mmm…interesting. So their schtick is “freshness”.
So how fresh does their food taste? The Scaddyburger, a ¼-pounder served with their special Scaddy-sauce was actually very satisfying – and yes – fresh tasting. The burger had a nice texture and flavor, the special sauce was kind of a blend of thousand-island and Russian dressing (definitely ketchup based) and the French fries were definitely cut from fresh potatoes. The toppings were also of high quality, with crunchy bright flavors. I really enjoyed my burger – it also wasn’t too greasy. But the highlight on the Scaddy’s menu for me were the hand battered chicken fingers. And can I just say the chicken fingers were just AMAZING. The breading was light but crispy and the chicken was soooo moist and tender. I couldn’t believe how good they were. I mean they were really good. The onion rings were also quite good with a delicate crisp crust. They also make pretty good milkshakes. But that chicken…man. That was good.
It turns out that Scaddy’s real schtick is that they’re a locally owned and operated family business that wants to run a burger joint the right way. Owner Wayne Scadlock and his family work all facets of the operation, from cooking to cleaning and cashiering. Eating there now a few times, I’ve noticed that Wayne himself has come by my table every time to see how I was enjoying my food. Given this family feel and professionalism, their use of fresh ingredients, and a hand-battered chicken to die for, Scaddy’s stands out from the malay of burger joints that have popped up all over the Wasatch front. I for one am totally down with the freshness motto at Scaddy’s. It’s not a gimmick – just fresh, real good food.
Scaddy’s ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
1846 South 300 West
Owner: Wayne Scadlock
Is Vinto yet another reincarnation of the typical wood-fired pizzeria, joining the ranks of a dozen or so pizzerias around town with the exact same schtick? This is a question I’ve been trying to collect data on for the past couple weeks…which means I’ve eaten at Vinto…a lot. And to be honest, I haven’t exactly made up my mind. “Fast-casual” is the concept that owner David Harries had in mind when creating Vinto. Restaurants in this broad category generally offer meals that are a step up from fast-food but served in a timeframe conducive to getting the customer out quickly if need be (for local chain examples, think Pei-Wei or Noodles). The difference at Vinto is that you, the customer, can actually control the pace at which the food comes out (and of course it’s an independent locally owned venture). If you’re in a rush you can order everything all at once and the food will come lickety-split. Or if you’d rather linger a bit, you can tell your server what you want a little at a time in order to set a more leisurely pace. The other big difference with Vinto is that the kitchen uses a battery of fresh, high-end ingredients that come through in a very focused rustic Italian menu.
The menu at Vinto includes a small offering of antipasti, salads, piadinas, pizzas, and desserts. One daily pasta special is also run alongside the regular menu. When you take a look through the menu, one obvious theme coming out of the kitchen is evident: every item is simple, composed of not too many ingredients, usually representing well-planned combinations of tried and true flavors. This is not fussy-fine dining by any means but rather simple, hearty, rustic Italian fare – very close to what you’d get in an everyday sort of pizzeria or café in Italy. Most of the menu items I’ve had taste good and are made from good quality ingredients. The salads are huge and can be considered meals unto themselves. The Italiana chopped salad is nicely composed of chopped lettuce, chicken, pancetta, fontina cheese, tomatoes, and cucumbers, lightly tossed in a red-wine vinaigrette. The individual ingredients are great and don’t need much to bring it all together but the vinaigrette seems to lack a little punch.
I’d never heard of a piadina before eating at Vinto but I must say the grilled chicken piadina is quite nice - nothing too over the top – just many high quality ingredients such as grilled Portobello mushrooms, fontina cheese, and mixed greens tied nicely together with a balsamic reduction. The piadina, an Italian flatbread or tortilla, provides a nice crunchy, yet chewy, envelope for the delicious filling which has a smoky flavor from the grill, a sharp taste from the cheese, crunch from the greens, and a lovely sweetness from the balsamic. Just imagine a large Italian style taco packed with lots of flavor and texture.
The pizza crust at Vinto has a crisp yet doughy texture. I would say the pizzas are pretty good – certainly not the best I’ve ever had, but definitely no way near the worst either. With good ingredients such as fresh mozzarella and clearly superior meat products like thick sliced pepperoni and house made artisan sausage – you really would have to do a lot to ruin a pizza made from stuff of this high quality. Taste-wise, the pizzas I’ve had there have been standardly good, not mind-blowing, but definitely solid.
In addition to the regular menu, a pasta item is also featured each day. So far I’ve had the opportunity to sample their spaghetti Bolognese – classic spaghetti in meat sauce. I must say that the depth of flavor I found lacking in the salad and pizzas was definitely present in this pasta. The pasta was a perfect al dente and the Bolognese was both a little sweet from the carrots and tangy from the tomato blended together in a velvety like consistency that made for a savory spoonful every time.
Finding a niche in the restaurant demographic is very important to the success of a new business. I think Vinto is on to something with its a little more upscale “Fast-casual” concept. The interior of the restaurant is beautiful and modern. It definitely evokes the vibe of quick and sophisticated yet casual. My impression of the food though is that the menu items are pretty safe and generally good in a standard sort of way. But it’s possible that they’ve perhaps over-sanitized their menu. I’m not sure I can explain it well enough here but I feel like the food coming out of the kitchen is a bit robotic at this point. I haven’t been really wowed by anything I’ve had. But nothing has been bad or severely disappointing either. Can anyone say status quo? So it’s almost as if Vinto truly does fall into the same “Fast-casual” category as say Noodles. But I guess I don’t want it to be in the same category because there clearly is some passion in the well thought out concept and menu. I just want to taste that passion in the food a little more. I think Vinto’s challenge will be to find the right combination of safe, best selling dishes that still deliver a complexity of flavors. With a great “Fast-casual” concept, a cool space and interior design, and truly fabulous ingredients, Vinto is well positioned to not be just another standard pizzeria or casual Italian joint. As such, I expect great things to come out of Vinto’s kitchen and am going to keep a close eye on this up and coming restaurant.
Vinto ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
418 East 200 South
Owner: David Harries
Note: Executive Chef Rosanne Ruiz left Vinto shortly after opening the restaurant. Apparently owner David Harries decided that the simple Vinto menu did not require the watchful eye of a full time head chef and has since hired a kitchen manager to take Chef Ruiz’s place. Perhaps this robotic sense of the food and lack of passion that I picked up on could in part be due to the loss of strong leadership and vision in the kitchen?
Saturday, October 3, 2009
In an old converted house, Forage sports a modern, sleek décor. Like many of the new restaurants in town, Forage is on the smaller side – its small living room offers the only seating for dining in. The menu is impossibly simple: you either get a three course meal or you do a tasting of the entire menu. Like the décor, the menu is also very sleek with little description so you have lots left to the imagination when ordering. On our first night to Forage we had just rode a 50-mile bike ride in Park City (The Summit Challenge) and we were starving. Although we probably could have done the whole tasting menu the waiter was quick to point out that it does take up to 3-4 hours to complete. We didn’t really feel like sticking around that long so we each decided to go with the three -course option.
With each three-course meal you also receive a number of amuse bouche. These tiny starters were amazing. Not only did they taste great but they were also beautiful works of art. Our first amuse was a deep-fried garlic tomato croquette. These wondrous bites of tomato exploded in your mouth with a single bite. When I asked how the croquettes were prepared, I was told they were a mix of tomato and garlic bound together by gelatin and then deep-fried. (This is what I mean by cutting edge and modern). We then received three more amuse before the start of our three-course dinner: 1) a beautifully presented brown-shelled egg filled with a sweet custard finished with a sherry vinaigrette…really reminiscient of crème brulee, 2) a little shot glass filled with a delicious, cool summer vegetable gazpacho, and 3) a single spoonful of a raw fish (tuna if I recall?) preparation topped with chive. All were wonderful little tastes, each bursting with flavor, getting our palates ready for the main event.
First course arrives and we enjoyed the summer squash risotto and the vegetable garden plate. The risotto is actually “risotto” (risotto in quotation marks). It doesn’t contain any rice (as traditional Italian risotto does) and so the term “risotto” here is only used in the sense of how risotto is made but the main ingredient is squash chopped into pieces that resemble rice. The “risotto” was a nice al dente paired with a savory tomato and garlic compote. The vegetable garden salad was less of a salad than a nicely composed plate of summer vegetables – but this was also fresh, crisp, seasonal, and delightful. These dishes provided a lovely “start” to the evening (“start” in quotation marks since we actually had already eaten 4 amuse bouche).
Our entrées came next. We dived into the beef strip loin and the roast Colorado lamb. The waiter said the beef was cooked sous vide, a cooking technique using a water bath originally designed for use in research laboratory settings. The cooking technique yielded beef that was tender and succulent; it was complemented nicely with a savory tomato confit and a potato puree - a neat take on a classic meat and potatoes dish. The roast Colorado lamb was equally as pleasant served with eggplant and cucumber alongside a chick pea “gnocchi”. Gnocchi is an Italian potato dumpling but the Forage chefs have crafted a similar dumpling made of chick peas – and this “gnocchi” is just as good with a wonderfully nutty taste. The chick pea “gnocchi” and the smoked paprika definitely gave the lamb dish a delicious Moroccan slant.
Desserts topped off our meal with a rose infused cake and a frozen chocolate terrine. The rose cake offered a delicious, but not too sweet, end to the meal. It was served with peaches and a yogurt sorbet to round out with a little sweetness and tartness. The frozen chocolate and extra virgin olive oil terrine was truly an extravagant dish served with a plum sauce and chocolate, lemon cake. These were not your typical desserts by any stretch of the imagination, but the charm of a place like Forage is that it challenges its diners to go outside their comfort zones in taking a true food adventure.
In describing the meals we had here, I know I’ve probably misspoken about some of the ingredients and/or preparations used here, likely not doing them total justice. The plates are, how shall we say, a little complicated and I didn’t feel like taking copious notes at each course (especially given we had just gone on that exhausting bike ride). I really just wanted to sit back and be amazed. And amazed is truly the right word to describe my experience. Forage definitely warrants your own investigation. What I can say is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your experience at Forage. I guarantee it will be an adventure for your palate, taking your taste buds somewhere they’ve never been before.
Forage ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
370 East 900 South
Chefs Viet Pham and Bowman Brown
Cinegrill is located in a strange space, essentially the bottom floor of an apartment building lit up with a pink neon sign. The inside is a little kitschy; tables are covered with plastic red and white checkered table cloths and there is an odd, old piano located directly in the front of the restaurant as you walk in - and an old bar on your right where you can order and pick up your take out. It’s been this way since the restaurant opened and continues as such today. The staff is friendly and the menu straight-forward. This is casual old diner food at its best. Don’t expect anything fancy or ultra modern here.
To be honest I’ve only had two things off the menu at Cinegrill but I would whole-heartedly recommend them both. My first recommendation is the corned beef sandwich. After all these years Cinegrill still manages to make their own corned beef in-house. That alone is pretty unique. The savory sandwich is a perfect lunch or light dinner and is uniquely served on their old-school, war-era garlic toast. The garlic toast in and of itself is fantastic – reminding me of the garlic toast I got at my high school cafeteria. They’re basically hamburger buns seasoned with margarine (really – I don’t think they use butter) with garlic powder and dried parsley. Again, it’s not fancy fare here – and perhaps not for everyone - but it does fill up your tummy and I quite like it.
My second recommendation is to start with the house salad and then dive into the spaghetti plate. The salad is a huge pile of iceburg lettuce lightly dressed in a creamy Italian dressing. It’s served with a slice of provolone and a slice of pepperoni with a garlic toast on top. It’s kind of a cool presentation really - and interestingly, the whole thing is served on a small dessert or bread plate…so you find it a bit difficult to eat without making a mess. The spaghetti is served in a small silver bowl where a heaping serving of pasta sits below a plop of old-fashioned meat sauce. I like to dump the whole thing onto the plate on which it’s served to mix all the sauce and pasta together into a unified meal. The meat sauce is a basic tomato-ground beef combination…with hints of dried basil and oregano…certainly something you would imagine getting at the home of a New York Italian grandmother or in my case it brings me back to the spaghetti of my childhood growing up with my Filipino father who was a cook in the Navy. It is true comfort food without any gimmicks or new wave interpretations.
Basic goodness is what you’ll get at Cinegrill. It’s a Utah classic that you have to try. It won’t blow your mind away but it will satisfy your soul. So go…now...and be part of Utah history. You may just be lucky enough to find a piano player tinkling away at the keys for you. If so, sit back, stay for a bit, and enjoy this true Utah gem.
Cinegrill ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
344 South 300 East
Co-owner: James Arnold
Thursday, August 6, 2009
In addition to standard starter fare, Este offers a house specialty of homemade garlic knots. This is basically pizza dough baked into a bite-sized knot, basted in garlic, olive oil, and oregano. The knots are baked to a crisp, golden exterior yet still maintain a light and airy, soft inside. A nice hot, fresh knot dipped in marinara really wets your appetite for a big slice of pizza. Speaking of the pizza, at Este you can top your pizza with any of the toppings offered on their menu or you can choose from a selection of specialty pizzas. Just a note though: you can’t get pineapple as a topping here. Apparently it appears to be somewhat of a faux pas to mention it at this establishment since real New York pizza is never served with pineapple. In fact at one point a can of pineapple was hanging from the wall with a big X pasted to it (on recent trips, I’ve noticed this has been removed). If you think that this might be a hint that all of their toppings are fresh….think again – they seem to be okay with using canned mushrooms.
Este also offers a wide variety of signature pastas, stromboli, and calzones but I’m thinking the main event here is the pizza. That said - one recommendation I do have outside their pizza menu is their sole dessert offering: a traditional Italian donut, called zeppole. These crisp, little, chewy bites are coated in sugar and served with a sweet agave nectar dipping sauce. Many of the local Italian restaurants don’t serve zeppole, so a trip to Este would be worth dessert in and of itself.
Some of my favorites on the Este specialty menu include the Italian Flag pizza, which is made of pizza sauce, ricotta cheese, and pesto; or the white pizza made of ricotta cheese, fresh garlic, oregano, and mozzarella; or the lasagna pizza with marinara, ricotta, and meatballs. All pizzas are made on the thin New York style crust and cut into wide slices that you can fold in your hand. The crisp, thin crust holds just the right amount of toppings, so usually the tops aren’t piled too high with stuff. The result is a perfect hand-held item that you can eat while standing on the side of a busy New York street or comfortably hold while watching a DVD on your screen at home in Salt Lake.
Este ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
Sugarhouse and downtown locations
Monday, July 27, 2009
The breakfast menu at the Park is very simple. They’ve got a number of omelets, typical breakfast items such as French toast and pancakes, sides of breakfast meats, and a number of breakfast specials or combos. My favorite breakfast special is the ‘Michigan Hash’ – house potatoes mixed with sausage, onions, mushrooms, and green peppers topped with cheddar cheese and two eggs, served with toast. It’s huge…it’s filling…and oh so delicious. Are you kidding? It’s like a perfect mix of everything you love about breakfast rolled into a crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside type of casserole. It’s a complete savory mindblast. Luckily you can balance out the savory with some sweet with your toast. At the table you’ll also find house made jams – strawberry, apricot, peach - depending upon what’s in season and/or available at the time. With some of this homemade jam slathered on a piece of wheat toast or sourdough, you can round out your breakfast nicely.
If you’re more into a basic breakfast, more like something you might make at home yourself, check out the huge portions of the ‘Double Play’ with meat (either ham, bacon, or sausage), eggs (however you like), and house potatoes served with toast. For sweeter menu items, don’t miss their delectable, thick pieces of French toast or the super fluffy, enormous pancakes. I’ve eaten most things on the menu, including the occasional specials such as chile rellenos or the ‘eutaw omelet’ and everything is great. It’s total diner food to the max. I must say that the breakfast menu is the highlight for me, but they do have a selection of burgers and sandwiches for lunch. But if all else fails for lunch, they do serve breakfast all day.
What I really love about the Park is its homey environment. I always feel welcomed when I come through the door and what I really like is that it’s always really loud and alive inside. It kind of reminds me of my family home growing up; I grew up with a pretty loud, large, extended family. It’s very appropriate that the restaurant is located inside an old converted house. That definitely contributes to the homey feeling you get from the place. Continuing my tradition of big family breakfast feels right at the Park Café. I may not be making the food myself, but I know someone back in the kitchen is putting some love into this food. You can taste it…and it tastes good.
The Park Cafe ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
604 East 1300 South
Co-owners: Sean and Randi
Sunday, July 26, 2009
There is a list of about 5-6 starters that you can begin your meal with. The blue cheese house cut potato chips is a Bambara classic and has been kept on the menu throughout the years regardless of which chef is running the kitchen – they are a Bambara staple. These crispy, savory, and tangy chips are a great way to start the evening. If you’re looking for a heartier appetizer you might try the crispy fried rock shrimp and calamari which offers some kick served with a spicy remoulade. Also on the menu are a variety of salads. Right now it seems like Salt Lake is in love with beets – every restaurant has their version of a summery beet salad these days. Bambara is no exception putting up a roasted baby beet salad served with blood oranges, goat cheese and pistachios. The roasting of the beets brings out the woody beet flavor that is cut with the sweetness and tang of the blood oranges. The goat cheese and pistachios offer some texture with creamy and crunchy side notes. Beets seem to be ‘en vogue’ right now – but if being ‘in style’ means eating this good…I’m happy to jump on the beet bandwagon.
Interestingly, Chef Powers’ menu also offers what are called middles. These are medium portion sized plates such as mussels or pastas like gnocchi that are offered after the salad course. At one point a hand rolled tagliatelle carbonara was offered. The soft, made-from- scratch pasta paired nicely with crispy, salty pork and a creamy, pecorino Romano sauce. However, this item must not have been very popular as it has since been replaced by a similar fresh pasta served with tomatoes and arugula. This is unfortunate because the carbonara was quite delicious and it showcased the Chef’s ability to take a classic Italian dish and put his own unique spin on it. However, the main entrée items do demonstrate the exquisite skill of the Bambara kitchen in executing dishes such as cast iron roasted Colorado bison with pomegranate au jus and Cabernet braised Angus beef short ribs with truffled macaroni and cheese. The maple brined pork porterhouse chops served with apple fennel slaw and calvados cider butter is a very nice dish that highlights a sweet and savory flavor profile. Served with cheesy grits, it is a very hearty main course. The Chef’s signature steak frites (steak with fries) is also a lovely, classic French meal. You have the choice of a flat iron steak or dry aged New York - and your steak is cooked to order, served with crispy herbed fries, a peppercorn jus and béarnaise…a true classic cooked to perfection.
With a long history of fabulous food, Chef Powers had some big shoes to fill indeed. I’m happy to say that he’s been able to fit his unique menu in without losing the spirit of the restaurant I’ve come to know and love over the years. I look forward to many more years of good eats to come.
Bambara ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
Executive Chef Nathan Powers
Executive Sous Chef Brad Murphy
Sunday, June 21, 2009
The restaurant is called Pago and it’s the first of its kind in Salt Lake City. Pago bills itself as a farm to table, neighborhood restaurant and wine bar. This means that Pago participates in restaurant supported agriculture where it gets most of its product from local farms only. They also use local artisans as suppliers, getting their cheese from the Beehive Cheese Company, lamb from Morgan Valley Farms, and chocolate from Amano Chocolate – all locally owned businesses. You can view the concept in two ways. The cynical view is that it’s purely a marketing scheme designed to attract those who think it’s “cool and trendy”. Or you can trust that what drives the concept is a true belief in the principles of supporting local business and farmers and that food is best served seasonally. I tend to believe the latter as it is a really big time investment in re-developing menus that have to change based on the season and what local agriculture can provide. I also believe the owners and chefs take pride in what they do – you can immediately get a sense of pride in the way the restaurant is put together as well as in the food that comes out of the kitchen.
Pago offers some lovely starters. I found the beet salad really refreshing – the firm yet soft texture of the beets blended nicely with the tart, creamy greek yogurt. The salad was paired with some spicy arugula and had some nice crunch with a sprinkling of candied nuts. It was sweet, tart, and peppery all it once. In contrast, for a lighter way to wet your palate, I would recommend the ceviche. A citrus vinaigrette is served over thin slices of delicate, raw white fish. The taste is clean and refreshing – very sushi-esque. Both are great ways to wake up your appetite. Having sampled items from both the lunch and dinner menus, I have found some favorites.
The roasted salmon is always cooked to a perfect medium, served over a bed of creamy risotto with crunchy salsify chips on top. The soft salmon pairs nicely with the creamy rice and crunchy salsify.
The chicken paillard is also quite lovely – nothing too fancy here – just a classic French preparation of a chicken breast pounded thin. At Pago, the paillard is crusted with a breadcrumb topping and pan fried to a crunchy exterior offering a lovely contrast to the creamy, savory potato puree it is served atop. The chefs do well to pair flavors, colors, and textures. Other favorites include the house meatloaf as well as the hand cut pasta. Seems to me like you just can’t go wrong at this place...at least so far.
Finishing off the meal with some chocolates from Amano or some gelato from Dolcetti’s - and it appears that you’ve not only just supported Salt Lake’s first farm to table restaurant but you also just supported about 10 other local businesses. Now that’s a concept that I like.
Pago ~ Salt Lake City, Utah
9th and 9th
Owner: Scott Evans
Co-executive chefs: Adam Findlay and Michael Richey