Sunday, March 29, 2009


I get together about once a month with a few friends I used to be in culinary school with. It’s a great time to see each other, catch-up with each other’s lives, and hear about what’s going on at the school for those of us who are no longer there. I like to hear about how people’s classes are going, what chef-instructor’s gotten fired (and they fire a lot of them at this school), and what culinary and life adventures people have been getting themselves into. This month it was my turn to organize our informal “food club” gathering and I chose to have dinner at Epic. I’d eaten here several times before with things generally ranging from just okay to good, but never great. So I wanted one more visit to make my mind up about this place. I wondered if Epic would be up to the challenge tonight?

Epic is located in a strange strip mall next to a toddler jungle gym and a Burger King. The location certainly doesn’t instill confidence in a casual dining establishment, but when you walk into the restaurant you see that it is in fact very nice. It’s casually decorated, but modern looking; it’s definitely a place that invites you to take a seat and have some food. If I were to directly compare it to another restaurant that I’ve reviewed before, I’d say it certainly is comparable in style, cost, and clientele to Café Trio. On this particular night Epic was also hosting an acoustic guitar player, so we even got some nice background music with dinner.

We decided to share a couple of appetizers before the main course: an order of flatbread and the grilled artichoke. The flatbread was tasty, served with grilled chicken and a cranberry-cheddar soft cheese, with a parsley aioli. The flavors reminded me a bit of the holidays – I think because of the cranberries. It was nicely balanced with creaminess from the cheese, some chewiness from the cranberries, and some walnuts for crunch. It was good, but the idea is hardly original. In fact, it’s sort of a deconstructed chicken salad. I remember having a bastardized version of this at a Pampered Chef party that I attended a couple of years ago where the sales rep made something similar out of canned chicken, craisins, and Pillsbury canned croissants. Um yeah, you can imagine how that turned out, but I digress…
The grilled artichokes were served drenched in clarified butter and garlic. So really, how bad can that be? The younger, smaller leaves toward the top were tender and delicious. You could pop these right into your mouth. However, you had to use the rougher lower leaves essentially as a vessel to scoop out the butter-laden filling. The artichokes were not perfect as they came out a bit oily because of its sauce, but health concerns aside - they were also pretty tasty.

Knowing we’d be having a few filling appetizers I felt like I should have something light for dinner. I also wanted something that would be clean on my palate, so I ordered the seared Ahi Tuna. I think this was a good choice. The Ahi was coated in sesame seeds, seared rare, and served with an Asian style spicy peanut sauce, white basmati rice, and vegetables - overall a very healthful dish. The plating was okay but it reminded me a little of a cafeteria as the rice came out in the shape of an ice cream scoop. The Ahi was placed around the scoop of rice and some mixed sautéed vegetables were placed around the rice. The tuna itself was great. It was cooked perfectly; the rare tuna was soft and tender, given some nice texture from the coating of sesame seeds. The rice was very bland and perhaps a little underdone. Even just the addition of some herbage would have heightened the rice a bit. I think the vegetables were also somewhat of a mess. I found these to be a bit clunky; they appeared to be from a bag of frozen mixed veggies similar to what you’d get from a grocery freezer aisle. I would have appreciated a simpler veg side dish – maybe a single vegetable with a cleaner taste. For example, some simple green beans tossed in a sesame vinaigrette or maybe some roasted asparagus. In this case, I think less would have been more – and the focus of the dish, the Ahi, would have really shown through.

Generally speaking, I think everyone enjoyed his or her dish. Other dishes around the table included the salmon, the pork medallions, and the white shrimp. Again, I think it was a little hit and miss with the plating. One of my friends mentioned that her salmon was actually covered up with tomatoes – as if they were trying to hide the salmon. Perhaps they were hiding an oddly shaped piece? In any case, no major complaints were heard around the table. One annoying thing that came up, however, was the fact that there were no options for those who were gluten intolerant. It turns out that one of my friends has Celiac Disease and can’t have anything made from wheat flour. The menu options at Epic for people with this condition were piss poor. So poor in fact that my friend had a special caprese salad made: tomato, fontina (I guess they didn’t have any fresh mozzarella around), and basil with a balsamic vinaigrette. She quite enjoyed it but in this day and age with people having special needs, restaurants should be more accommodating. I think it’s a little pathetic if the only dining option for someone with gluten intolerance is a cold tomato salad. It’s very uninventive and just lacks total imagination and effort. The staff should have reacted with better options and been willing to put something together that would have been truly special. I think taking this kind of extra step for customers is what separates restaurants from being mediocre to being good or great. And I think this is the reason that I consider Epic somewhere in between mediocre and good. I do think this visit with my food club helped to make up my mind about this place – and Epic was definitely not up to the challenge.

Epic ~ Midvale, Utah
707 E. Fort Union Blvd.
Chef/owner Ken Rose

Epic Casual Dining on Urbanspoon