Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Mariposa

The Mariposa is Deer Valley Ski Resort’s high-end, high-brow, gourmet restaurant. The menu is eclectic ranging from classic preparations like entrees such as cassoulet with duck confit to more modern appetizers like roasted quail wrapped in pancetta. It is very obvious that the menu at The Mariposa is developed to satisfy a very sophisticated palate. And customers don’t get this sophistication on the cheap – every menu item boasts a hefty price. However, given that the ingredients are of the highest quality possible, that their wine list has consistently been awarded for excellence by Wine Spectator magazine, and that their service is not just good – but superb – it is not surprising that this place is so expensive…but believe me…it is soooo worth it.

Our waiter recognized us from previous visits. It was nice to see a familiar face and he nudged us on a little asking, “So what are we going to eat this time?” The last time we dined at The Mariposa he had convinced us to go with the Chef’s tasting menu - a six course meal highlighting certain items off of the menu. This is a great way to taste many different Mariposa favorites. For example, we sampled appetizers such as the ahi sashimi – absolutely sublime…so clean tasting and buttery that it could have just slid down my throat. Four courses later we received our final entrée taste, the rocky mountain rack of lamb. The lamb was a succulent pink, tender and juicy, served with a lovely pesto and crispy potatoes. For a tasting menu, I actually thought some of the portion sizes were just a little bit too big. I think I was full even just after the third course. But we did the impossible by finishing up with the sixth and final course: dessert, sampling a few of the pastry chef’s marvelous creations. It’s seldom that I would call a meal absolutely perfect, but I felt like this night at The Mariposa was the closest I might ever get. The night was very memorable and it definitely left me wanting for more. Specifically, I knew the next time I came in I would have to have the sablefish.

So back to our most recent visit - because of our previous experience with the tasting menu, we decided against doing the tasting again and would just order regular menu items. We began our meal with an amuse bouche compliments of the chef. This single bite contained a mix of julienned apples served over a dollop of crab all atop a small piece of crispy pancetta. The play of sweet from the apples, savory from the pancetta and crab and the crispy, smooth, and creamy textures were quite delightful on the taste buds. It made for a very nice start to the evening. We decided to go with The Mariposa’s version of fried green tomatoes as an appetizer. These fried green tomatoes were served with a sweet corn chile sauce, warm goat cheese, and nice mix of baby greens: absolutely delicious – crispy, tart, sweet, creamy…the perfect combination of flavor and texture.

My dining companion got something neither of us had had before: the bison filet. Instead of going with something new and unknown, I stuck with something I had gotten before: the sablefish. Why? Only because this was simply THE BEST fish dish I’ve ever had. I wanted to see if eating this fish again would allow me to experience the same feelings of ecstasy I remember from my last visit. And the verdict? It was better than I remembered. Just like last time, the texture of the fish was perfect…like velvet – so smooth and buttery. The fish is glazed with honey and tamari, adding a hint of sweetness and sesame as well as giving it a glossy finish. It was plated sitting atop a soft, risotto-like rice cake and some wild mushrooms. I detected a subtle ginger taste that contrasted nicely with the woody mushroom flavor. It all came together so beautifully. The stuff dreams are made of this sablefish is.

However, the sablefish was not to be outdone by the second entrée on our table. The bison filet was tender, not gamey at all, and cooked to a perfect medium rare. Compared to the clean flavors of my fish, the bison was very much on the rich side. It came accompanied by foie gras and some type of bleu cheese as well as a sweet potato gratin. The dish was lovely, albeit not what I would call a light dish – and to be nit-picky, I didn’t appreciate the symmetricality of the plating. I thought it looked a little weird. But aesthetics aside, the bison was absolutely delicious. If I had to choose between the two entrees however, the sablefish would win hands-down! To finish off our meal, we decided to do a Mariposa classic for dessert and went with the chocolate snowball. This is a very dense bittersweet chocolate cake, coated with whipped cream. It is a dark chocolate lover’s dream – not too sweet, but not too bitter, and surprisingly not too rich…and not only is it a great dessert, but it’s also a work of art as well. The artistry is just amazing; I wonder how long it took the pastry chef to pipe all of that whipped cream just to cover one cake?

The Mariposa is a unique fine dining experience in a very comfortable, informal, and relaxed setting: an old ski lodge. One unique - and quite unfortunate - aspect of being situated in a ski resort lodge is the sad fact that this restaurant remains open only during the ski season, December through April. This means that you only have five short months to enjoy the creations that come out of their kitchen. The months through spring, summer, and fall will prove extra long for me this year. And like many skiers who are waiting for the next winter season to come around, jones-ing for that first powder run, I’ll also be looking forward to next year’s ski season. I can already taste the sablefish in my mouth. I hope it will be better than I remember.

The Mariposa ~ Park City, Utah

Deer Valley Resort

Executive Chef Clark Norris

The Mariposa on Urbanspoon