Haute cuisine seems like it wants to be painting, aiming to stimulate visually in the form of elaborate presentation. With the popularity of tapas restaurants, it appears that less is more, and in the hands of a highly trained chef, small plates can be like miniscule artistic canvases.
Nata Gallery—get it? “Not a” gallery—is a “pop-up” restaurant exhibiting local artists that opened in early December. Nata’s Katie Weinner graduated from the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver, was head development chef for the Mist Project pop-up series and is a culinary instructor at the Art Institute of Salt Lake. Her partner at Nata, Mike Burtis, graduated from the culinary program of the Art Institute and was the saucier chef for Mist.
They are “food people, not art people,” in the words of Weinner, and the artistry of the food may relegate the art on the wall to mere conversation pieces. Desarae Lee’s prints attain the humor of Edward Gorey’s work; for the Opening Night party Jan. 17, food art by photographer Anne Stephenson will be featured.
At times, the food is a tiny bit too artsy— smoked meats hung on a miniature clothesline, or a smoked salmon ball shaped into the body of a snail—but the visual pleasure adds to that of the mellifluous flavor combinations. A highlight of the 10-course dinner Dec. 28 was a biscuit with alligator fillet and bacon gravy.
With its 12-person capacity, Nata Gallery feels intimate and relaxed, yet the former House Gallery space seems rife with possibility for experimentation, and locally sourced food is used as much as possible. Chefs are the new rock stars, and this kind of meal feels like a virtuoso performance.
29 E. 400 South
Pop-up dinner Jan. 12, 7-9 p.m.
Opening Night party, Thursday, Jan. 17, 7-9 p.m.
$75 plus gratuity
Reservations at SLCPop.com/upcoming-events/