Saturday, January 30, 2010
'Really, they made this here in Provo?'
I almost never get to Provo. I think I've been to Provo once where I've actually stopped for a significant period of time to watch a BYU vs. Cal football game over 10 years ago. (This of course excludes the 6 months I dated a BYU student in 2001...but that's a story for another time). When I think of cities that play host to restaurants that serve modern, unique food - honestly Provo is not the first town that comes to mind. On a chance overnight stay in Provo over the Christmas holiday, I got the opportunity to drop into Communal, a hip and trendy dinner spot I heard was pretty decent. Pretty decent in Provo? This definitely warranted some investigation.
The name Communal stems from the philosophy behind the restaurant's serving practices. The food is served in smaller, family style dishes - usually in portions big enough for at least 2 people. The decor in the restaurant also matches this philosophy with one long row of conjoined tables and wooden benches on one side of the restaurant. Seating in this area is close quarters, giving a true communal feel; not to worry if you value your personal space though, there is more traditional style seating available as well. The restaurant sports a beautiful layout and an open kitchen: all very small, clean, and modern. Could we really be in Provo?
We started off our dinner with the melted onion tart. A crisp pastry was layered with caramelized onions atop which a frisee salad tossed with a bacon vinaigrette was placed. Over this a poached egg sat glistening like a jewel. The dish was quite nice. The sweetness from the onion was well balanced with the salty, bitter frisee salad. Once you sliced through the poached egg with your folk, the creaminess of the yolk tied the whole dish together quite nicely...giving it an overall great mouth feel. Really, they made this here in Provo?
To celebrate the Communal theme, we next shared two meat entrees, a starch, and a veg. We were excited to see two miniature family style servings of the pot roast and the airline chicken breast in cute, modern serving dishes. The pot roast was everything you'd imagine old school, comfort food to be. It was juicy, tender, and deep with flavors of bay, onion, and red wine. It was a real comforting dish, as only a well done pot roast can deliver. Paired with crisp wild mushrooms and a cheesy, gooey gratin, we had the perfect accoutrements to a complete meal. Yes - all here in Provo!
The highlight of the dinner for me though was the airline chicken breast. The airline part of the chicken breast refers to an old school butchering of chicken where the chef fabricates the breast so that part of the wing is still attached. Apparently this cut was first made popular when it was served on airlines in the 1960s. In any case, the cut isn't what made this dish interesting per se - it was the way the chicken was cooked that made it special. The chicken was cooked sous vide...or under vacuum - under constant, exact temperature in a water bath. The breast was sooo juicy and tender. The chefs must have also quickly pan fried the chicken on one side to get a crisp skin, because the skin offered a nice textural contrast to the juicy meat. Not your everyday chicken breast...airline, indeed. Sous vide, really...in Provo?!?
I must say the food was great, the restaurant was intimate, the kitchen was open and this added up to a nice warm family type experience - a communal feel if you will. I love the concept, the menu is super simple and focused, and the chefs are even committed to using local, sustainable products. Are we really in Provo?
The food was so filling that we opted for no dessert. Instead we ended with a nice night cap finishing the wine we had at our table. Suddenly as if I snapped out of trance, I quickly glanced around the small restaurant and noticed that we were the only table drinking wine. We could hear the table behind us ordering drinks, saying that it was a special occasion so they wanted something nice. When the server came back to the table with a large bottle of sparkling apple cider, I just smiled to myself thinking - well, we are in Provo afterall....
Communal ~ Provo, Utah
100 North University Ave
Co-owners: Colton and Joe