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Zy Food Wine & Cheese

Confusion at new SLC restaurant

By Ted Scheffler
Photo by John Taylor // Zy
Posted // January 2,2012 -

We usher in 2012 with a look at one of Salt Lake City’s newer restaurants, one that arrived on the scene with a lot of fanfare: Zy. Or, more formally: Zy Food Wine & Cheese (that’s the full name of the restaurant).

Located on State Street just south of the City Center Marriott, Zy features high ceilings and a wall of windows, which, combined with myriad other hard surfaces, means this is one of the noisier dining destinations you’ll find. If you like the buzz and bustle of strangers’ conversations bouncing around the dining room, you’ll like Zy. However, if you’re looking for an intimate spot to enjoy a quiet meal, this isn’t it. I can’t say that I’m very fond of the sparse, cold, minimalist décor at Zy, but I have met folks who like it.

There is a small bar en route to the restrooms, which seems to serve no real purpose. I doubt you’d want to sit there staring at the blank wall behind the bar, although you could peruse the cheese in the display case there, I suppose. It doesn’t look very inviting, however: The cheeses (a specialty of Zy) are tightly bound up in layers and layers of plastic wrap and look like they could survive the Rapture intact. It’s just one of many oddities here.

I’m fond of Miles Broadhead, the well-seasoned general manager at Zy. And the chef, Matthew Lake, has an impressive résumé, which includes being named as one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs in America” a number of years ago. So it’s hard to understand why, for example, as I waited for my lunch companion to arrive during one visit, my server asked, “Can I get you anything while you wait? Do you want some cheese?” That’s one of the weirder questions I’ve ever been asked. Why, of course! I start every meal with cheese. Strange.

When I ordered the buttermilk fried chicken ($13), I’d sort of expected maybe a leg or thigh and some white meat. What I got was fairly dry, boneless white chicken meat with crisp and tasty crust. Unfortunately, it came with a biscuit that was hard enough to be used as flooring tile—even the so-so “country gravy” couldn’t save it. But an even more disappointing dish was shrimp la plancha ($14). The menu states that the grilled shrimp comes with “lemon, chilies and herbs …” and that is correct. The shrimp was doused in so much lemon that my mouth puckered, but what was really odd was that there were shards of dried red chilies the size of my thumbnail strewn about atop the shrimp. Now, normally, dried chilies are used for sauces: They are reconstituted in hot water and, typically, pureed and strained to removed seeds and chili pieces. There is no reason on earth that those chili shards should have been on my plate. As my lunch companion said, “Even if you could gag those down, aren’t they indigestible?”

During a recent dinner, my dining partner looked at her plate and mine and said, simply, “I’m confused.” Unfortunately, that pretty much sums up the cuisine at Zy. It’s confusing. For example, in the dead of winter, a seafood appetizer was seared scallops ($12) on a summery bed of green pesto that had been zapped with so much lemon I couldn’t taste the mollusks. On the other hand, a plate of chorizo meatballs ($7) was delicious: meatballs bathed in a rich, sherry-cream sauce. It’s just that, well, the meatballs didn’t taste at all like chorizo.

What confused my dinner companion the most was the Steelhead trout entree ($23) she ordered. It came buried (we literally could not see the trout) under a mélange of roasted onions, porcini mushrooms and apple wedges, topped with pumpkin seeds. If there had been roasted pork or sausage under that wintry roasted-root and mushroom concoction, it might have made sense, but Steelhead trout just doesn’t pair very well with roasted apples and onions.

Simpler menu items—such as fried potatoes with herbs and sea salt ($4)—are a better gamble. In fact, the fried potatoes are great: thin spud slivers flash-fried to a perfect crispness and lightly tossed with herbs and salt. Likewise, a simple skirt steak ($16) rubbed with pepper and served with a Romesco sauce is quite pleasing. Crab fritters with a lemon and herb tartar sauce ($8) were sound, if not particularly memorable.

I like the wine list at Zy. It’s eclectic, and most wines are available both by the glass and by the bottle. There are just a handful of wines, ranging from $75 to $150, that are only available by the bottle. However, the wine is served in stemless glassware, which doesn’t really seem appropriate in a fine-dining establishment. I frequently use stemless wine glasses at home—they fare better in dishwashers than glasses with stems—but I tend to expect something a little classier when I’m paying $28 for an entree.

That’s what my lamb loin cost, and it was a final disappointment. I took two bites of the basil-crusted lamb, with roasted root veggies strewn around the plate, and called it a night. The combination of lamb and basil with root vegetables and goat-cheese polenta might sound interesting on paper, but on the palate it’s just a conglomeration of mismatched flavors. In a word: confusing.

Should you linger past your entrees at Zy, skip the forgettable desserts and opt instead for a cheese plate. They’re not inexpensive, priced at $11 for a choice of three small pieces of cheese or $15 for five. Selections range from local—Beehive’s Barely Buzzed and Promontory Cheddar—to imported cheeses like L’Edel de Claron from France and Italy’s Boschetto Tartufo. At least there is nothing confusing about the cheese.

268 S. State

Ted Scheffler Twitter: @Critic1

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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Posted // January 3,2012 at 15:17 Hahahahaha! That's priceless, Duke! Seriously, when I used to go on school break from college, we would drive to a relative's house in San Diego, then start up Highway One stopping at friend's and relative's places in Laguna Beach, Santa Barbara, Carmel Highlands, San Fransisco and Sausalito. Then, home to Utah. We would happily drive right past LA on the freeway, wouldn't even get off for gas. LA might still be the center of the old school music business that's practically dead or the old Hollywood land of myths, but these days it's the dive bar of the world's big cities.  


Posted // January 4,2012 at 15:32 - Yup, unfortunately the only thing that's changed is the racial demographic mix. We lived in Sacramento when I was little and my Mom wanted to drive to see LA. My Dad, the former cop, asked,"Why? I've never lost anything in LA!" I heard that quip for years afterwards because everyone in the family thought it was so funny and so right-on. Here's the thing, getting back to this confused man's post: My first cousin moved to San Fransisco in 1969 and has lived there ever since. When you go to Chinatown with him to eat dinner, you go down back alleys ( I know, it's Chinatown! I brought my own ammo)and up dark stairwells into private family dining rooms that are served from the restauraunt kitchen below. And the food was indescribable! The flavors were from another planet, I thought. That's just a single gastronomic anecdote-He knows where the food treasures are in San Fransisco, in any cuisine or regional style. He came to town for a funeral last year and had occasion to eat at the Paris Bistro on 15th and 15th and still cannot get over his experience there. He was shocked to have "one of the best, if not the best" meals he's eaten in years right here in town. And he went out of his way to say,"that includes the Bay Area, Bill!" I think some of us already knew that, didn't we?


Posted // January 4,2012 at 11:16 - I really like the Carmel/Monteray area. My woman and I stayed in the highlands last year so she could run the Big Sur marathon. She did very well. That's hilarious that, even back then, you guys skipped LA. It is the toilet of big cities and, if you've read any Bukowski or Fante, it seems it always has been.


Posted // January 3,2012 at 11:39 WTF! Did you even eat at the restaurant?  I understand that some SLC food critics do not have the palate or experience to write about cuisine that goes outside of  the box.  But, after reading other reviews posted by this critic, i would take this review with a grain of salt.  McCools?  Red Rock Fasion place?  Honestly!  I would hope that the readership here can "read" between the lines.  I moved here from LA 2 years ago and I find ZY to be a breath of fresh air.  At least one restaurant in townis doing something different and delicious.  What an idiot.


Posted // January 3,2012 at 13:01 - Did you read the review, which listed all the dishes Ted and his companion ate at Zy? Does that answer your first question? This place doesn't sound like it's attempting to "go outside of the box", at all (sounds fairly commonplace to me), and it's certainly not the only restaurant in town providing alternatives to common cuisine, though, as I stated, it sounds pretty dang commonplace to me. Maybe you just don't pay attention, or maybe you're from Zy and are butt-hurt that Ted found Zy's recipes and execution to be, at best, silly, and at worst, inedible. One more thing: You're not cool or more experienced because you came from that dump called Los Angeles. I lived there, too, for years, and know for a fact that it is nothing to brag about, ever.