Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pago

When you walk in the door, there is a very modest bar which offers a direct view into the open kitchen; sitting at the bar you’re literally less than 5 feet away from the hot line where the chef’s are cranking out each order. As you look around, you immediately notice the modern d├ęcor and the fact that the restaurant itself is quite small in size, probably only seating around 40 people or so. The place manages to be quaint, elegant, rustic, and modern at all once.

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

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Pago on Urbanspoon