Sushi chefs T.J. and Tosh, as well as the team at Naked Fish have managed to pull off a helluva feat: They've turned a restaurant that, when it originally opened, wasn't worth crossing the street for into a dining destination well worth a trip from afar. Settle in at the sushi bar for an omakase dining experience—simply put yourself in your talented chef's hands and enjoy remarkably fresh, artful, delicious Japanese fare. Big-eye tuna, spiraled needlefish, raw octopus carpaccio and amberjack garnished with myoga are just a few of the delights to be had at this hip Asian bistro. But, don't ignore the cooked food: Tender robatayaki lamb chops and Miyazaki Wagyu beef are also remarkable. Get naked!
67 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-595-8888, NakedFishBistro.com
The New Yorker
The New Yorker—Gastronomy Inc.'s flagship restaurant—has been winning over customers since 1978 with its unique mix of Continental and contemporary American cuisine. And, executive chef Will Pliler has been on board for most of that time, ensuring consistency and quality through the years. I like to enjoy a classic cocktail at the bar before dinner, something like a Bellini or Cable Car. Then, it's always difficult to choose from the array of menu riches at the New Yorker, but my favorite dishes include classic escargot with Roquefort-garlic butter, pappardelle with Maine lobster, Dijon-crusted roasted lamb rack and the breast of pheasant with basil mashed potatoes. Of course, after dinner Pliler's Tahitian vanilla-bean creme brulée is an absolute must.
60 W. Market St., Salt Lake City, 801-363-0166, GInc.com
On one side of the Hispanic supermarket called Rancho Market, you'll find an eatery named Nuestra Cocina. It's an open kitchen with counter seating and picnic tables, where a team of friendly Mexican women make everything from fresh tortilla chips and tamales to posole, menudo, tacos, gorditas, tortas, chilaquiles and more. But, the main draw is the stupendous dish called el molcajete. First, a layer of Oaxacan cheese is placed into the bottom of a stone molcajete. It melts immediately, creating a beautiful brown cheesy crust. Next, strips of napolitos, cooked shrimp, chicken and thin strips of beef are placed into the hot molcajete, along with whole charred jalapenos and plump Mexican-style green onions. Finally, the entire thing is topped with thick chunks of cheese, somewhat similar to feta, and delivered to your (picnic) table, hot enough to cause concern. Olé!
2470 S. Redwood Road, Rancho Market, West Valley City, 801-577-0030
At Pago, an intimate farm-to-table restaurant in the bustling 9th & 9th neighborhood, owner Scott Evans and executive chef Michael Richey create delectable meals utilizing quality products from local growers, farms and artisans. At lunchtime, the Wagyu steak sandwich, Pago burger and crab cakes are good options; dinner brings out dishes such as grilled quail panzanella, fried Heritage chicken and Sicilian braised local rabbit. Pago is also a great choice for weekend brunch.
878 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, 801-532-0777, PagoSLC.com
Readers Shout Out:
Michelle: Pago! Hands down. Unique menu, friendly and knowledgeable staff, beautiful interior, local ingredients.
Nicole: Pago. Great prices, use of local product, and a great seasonal menu.
Recently, Eric DeBonis rededicated his flagship restaurant to French bistro/brasserie cuisine, which is just fine and dandy with me. I never miss the opportunity to indulge in confit de canard aux lentilles du Puy at the Paris, along with mandatory oysters on the half shell. But now, options such as bouillabaisse, hanger steak with frites, mussels mariniere, steak tartar, beef daube and Provencal-style grilled lamb chops also beckon. Add to that an atmosphere that's a little slice of Paris, the city, along with an excellent wine list and, viola! you've got a delicious French getaway at 15th and 15th.
1500 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 801-486-5585, TheParis.net
Pawit's Royale Thai Cuisine
Owner/host Ponpawit Numnuan was born and raised in a small village in northern Thailand. Today, some of the proceeds from Pawit's Royale Thai Cuisine help support 200 schoolchildren in a small elementary school in his home village. All of which is great, but you'll want to visit Pawit for his authentic Thai flavors, not just his charitable leanings. Some of my favorite's at Pawit's include the beef larb, yum talay, pad siew, lard naa, gang massaman, and the baked chicken, marinated in lemon grass, garlic, pepper and Thai spices. Order a cold Singha beer to help douse the fire.
1968 E. Murray Holladay Road, Holladay, 801-277-3658, PawitsRoyaleThai.com
Piñon Market & Cafe
One of the many attractions at Victoria Topham's Piñon Market & Cafe is its dog-friendly vibe—there is dog “parking” outside and they even cook up doggie biscuits for your pup. For hungry humans, there's an eclectic array of tasty treats, everything from Key lime pie and quite possibly the world's best zucchini bread to sticky buns, hearty salads, potpies, homestyle soups (the curry squash soup is outrageous) and entrees like Thai lemon chicken. And, while lots of places sell something called “Chocolate Decadence,” Piñon's really is. Try to score some.
2095 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-582-4539
Pizzeria Seven Twelve
According to the owners, Pizzeria Seven Twelve is an exercise in the possibilities of sustainability, seasonal cooking and freshness. So obviously, this isn't your typical pizzeria. For starters, you won't find pepperoni on the menu. And how many pizza joints can you name that feature dishes such as braised-beef short ribs, wood-roasted Brussels sprouts or white-bean stew? The pizzas at Pizzeria Seven Twelve are wood-fired thin-crust pies, topped judiciously with ingredients like hand-pulled mozzarella, roasted fennel, house-made sausage, speck, caramelized mushrooms and onions, roasted eggplant, leeks, goat cheese and sopprassata. This is most definitely not your daddy's pizza parlor.
330 S. State, Orem, 801-623-6712, Pizzeria712.com
Plates & Palates
What did Bountiful do to deserve this? Plates & Palates could be located in downtown Salt Lake City or San Francisco, for that matter, and do well. The combination deli/café and cookware/bakeware shop serves up some of the best salads and sandwiches you'll find anywhere. I love that the owners remember their customers' favorite menu items. For me, that's the tomato-basil penne pasta salad with balsamic dressing, grape tomatoes, pine nuts and Parmesan. But, I'm also a sucker for the excellent Mediterranean panini: Genoa salami, Black Forest ham, provolone, feta, artichoke, tapenade and roasted red peppers on grilled cracked-wheat bread. Finding a seat at lunchtime is the only challenge.
390 N. 500 West, Bountiful, 801-292-2425, PlatesandPalatesUtah.com
Owners Becci and T have come a long way since 1996, when Q4U was nothing more than a 12-by-8 teal, magenta and white concession trailer selling beef brisket sandwiches and hot links at local fairs. Today, Q4U is one of the most beloved down-home eateries in the state. And, as always, T and the crew serve up deliciously messy pulled pork, beef brisket, succulent ribs, barbecued chicken, catfish and much more, with a friendly welcome that's all too hard to find these days. Stop by on Fridays in warm weather for Q4U's famous “pig from the rig.”
3951 W. 5400 South, Kearns, 801-955-8858, Q4U.com
Apparently, it's not enough for Red Iguana to win the “Best Mexican” award in City Weekly's Best of Utah every year we can recall. Nope, the folks at Red Iguana are out to conquer new territory, this year opening Red Iguana 2 and Taste of Red Iguana in the City Creek Center Food Court. Well, wherever you choose to get your Red Iguana fix, you can be assured the flavors of dishes like cochinita pibil, papadzules, chilaquiles, puntas de filete a la Norteña and, of course, the moles will bring tears of joy to your eyes.
736 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-322-1489; 866 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-214-6050; 28 S. State, City Creek Center Food Court, 801-214-6350, RedIguana.com
Readers Shout Out:
Deano: Can't live without the Red Iguana mole.
Red Maple Chinese Cuisine
I can count on one hand the restaurants in our area serving authentic Chinese of any sort, be it Cantonese, Szechwan, Hunan, Mandarin … whatever. You know: the sort of place where Chinese immigrants dine with their families. Well, I'm happy to report that you can add Red Maple to the shortlist of local Chinese restaurants worth picking up a pair of chopsticks for. On weekend at lunch/brunch time, the parking lot at Red Maple is packed. Inside, the restaurant is mobbed with hundreds of (mostly) Chinese customers gathered, family-style, around large tables. They're here for the traditional dim sum service, which is nothing less than exceptional. The Chinese community here has fallen in love with Red Maple, and so have I.
3361 S. Redwood Road, Salt Lake City, 801-747-2888, RedMapleSaltLake.com
Reef's Kitchen, located in the Marriott Plaza district of Park City, is named for the chef/owner's son, Reef—your first tip that Reef's Kitchen is a family affair. Owner Asi Yoked's wife works there also, as well as his sister and his parents on occasion. Well, nobody does falafel better than Asi, and the babaghanouj is also great. But, order a glass of wine or cardamom tea and carefully peruse the menu. In addition to kebabs, hummus and stuffed grape leaves, there are specialty dishes such as Moroccan salmon, couscous and Jerusalem shishlik (skewered, marinated leg of lamb)—I suppose you could call this Middle Eastern fusion cuisine. Sides of mejadarra and tabbouleh are terrific, and I suggest winding up your meal with sesame-spiked halva cookies or basbousa, a semolina coconut cake.
710 Main, Park City, 435-658-0323, ReefsRestaurant.com
At the Royal India restaurants in Sandy and Bountiful, owner/chef Emmanuel Shanthakumar and his family cook up a dazzling array of authentic Indian dishes from the south and north of India, all in this beautifully appointed restaurant. What distinguishes a good Indian restaurant from a great one largely has to do with the little things: décor, specialty dishes, breads, service. It's those types of considerations that have made Royal India one of my very favorite Indian restaurants in Utah. The warm hospitality at Royal India matches the fiery vindaloo dishes. The shrimp saag is rich and creamy, keema dosa is stuffed with fragrantly spiced lamb and the Peshwari naan (filled with cashews, raisins, and coconut) is heaven. Vegetarian options also abound at Royal India, and the daal Maharani is especially delightful. For dessert, you should try kulfi: homemade ice cream with pistachio, cashew nuts and cardamom.
10263 S. 1300 East, Sandy, 801-572-6123; 55 N. Main, Bountiful, 801-292-1835, RoyalIndiaUtah.com
Royal Street Café
Located mid-mountain at Deer Valley's Silver Lake Lodge, Royal Street Café is a perfect spot in summer, when the crowds thin out and one can enjoy a leisurely lunch on the sunny deck supplemented with fine wines and killer cocktails. The yellowfin tuna tartare appetizer is a terrific beginning to a meal, and the renowned Deer Valley Turkey Chili is justifiably famous. While at Royal Street, consider taking the award-winning (Best Park City Cocktail) St. Germaine Elderflower cocktail for a spin. Hungry? The chipotle barbecue burger with Royal Street's shoestring fries is a real whopper! And the best BLT I've ever had was the DVBLT (cherry chutney and Dijon-tarragon mayo make the difference). By all means, don't think of escaping without sinking your teeth into Royal Street's decadent ice cream sandwich.
Silver Lake Lodge, Deer Valley Resort, Park City, 435-645-6724, DeerValley.com
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Yes, it's a franchise, but Salt Lake City's Ruth's Chris Steak House certainly isn't a cookie-cutter affair. It's a feast for the eyes and palate. And, if service is your thing, you'll find a top-notch assemblage of handpicked servers at Ruth's Chris. I can't resist a cocktail at the plush bar—a Pear Twist martini, for example—before enjoying the classic chopped salad for a starter. At Ruth's Chris, you hear a lot about “sizzle.” The steaks are cooked at 1,800 degrees and are topped with fresh butter so they sizzle all the way to your table. This is true. And, if you want sizzle with a capital “S,” I recommend going whole hog—or whole cow—and indulging in the Porterhouse steak for two. Bring your platinum credit card.
275 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-363-2000; 2001 Park Ave., Park City, 435-940-5070, RuthsChris.com