Once you’ve reached the half-century
mark, one’s birthdays become
less a matter of joyous celebration
and more a sinister reminder that you’re
another year older and deeper in debt. The
instinct, then, on B-day morn is to slither
back under the covers with a bottle of
Jameson and refuse to acknowledge the
further passing of time.
But self-pity gets tedious. And I remind
myself: Despite an increasing number of
inexplicable aches and pains, I can still lift
a fork. A high-calorie birthday binge might
just help blur the line between young and old.
And when it comes to feeding at the trough, I
can still pig out with the best of them.
Breakfast: Any excuse to visit Jeff Masten’s Left Fork Grill is a good one, but a birthday breakfast is a great one. Normally, I’d have headed straight for Left Fork’s superb eggs Benedict. But, knowing that I had a high-cholesterol lunch planned for later, I reigned in my desires and ordered French toast, which came with two perfectly scrambled eggs and a duo of Masten’s excellent homemade breakfast sausage patties. I also snuck a few bites of my wife’s tasty egg-white veggie omelet. By the way, Left Fork Grill is now open for dinner until 9 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.
Lunch: Since I had a light breakfast—
hey, remember, I am a professional—it
seemed prudent to bulk up at lunchtime.
No sense risking getting weak and wobbly
prior to dinner. And it occurred to me that
I hadn’t sunk my teeth into a Market Street
steak in eons. Yes, I know that the Market
Street Grill restaurants are synonymous
with seafood. But I’ll let the cat out of the
bag: They also serve exceptionally good
steaks. So, I enlisted a couple of colleagues/
friends to help me knife my way through a
mountain of Market Street meat.
It’s not easy to find a thick, juicy bone-in
filet mignon in this town, but Market
Street Grill University has ’em. And, Lord,
are they ever packed with flavor! I rarely
order the filet cut in restaurants because
it’s typically bland (too lean, no marbling,
etc.). But the bone in this jumbo-sized filet
helps protect the meat from the high heat
and imparts added flavor. The filet itself
is huge: A 2-inch thick hunk of ridiculously
tender beef, seasoned perfectly. I’ve
often taken note of the steak seasoning at
Market Street, which I always thought was
spot-on, but could never quite figure out.
I knew it was more than just salt and pepper.
It turns out that it’s not such a mystery:
The chefs at Market Street restaurants
simply use Montreal Grill seasoning (from
McCormick) on their steaks—the
same stuff you can buy at the supermarket
or at the Market Street fish
markets. They finish the steaks off
with a conservative drizzle of garlic butter,
and that’s it.
It’s probably a tie for the most decadent
steak at Market Street: the aforementioned
bone-in filet or the USDA Prime New York
strip steak. Both are extremely satisfying.
But the best bargain on the menu is the
steak “sandwich,” which is a 12-ounce New
York steak served atop a slice of grilled
garlic bread. I’m told that Market Street
used to serve the same steak as an entrée
for $32. Once they started calling it a sandwich,
they had to drop the price (to $23.99).
By the way, you don’t have to pay extra for
sides when you order a steak at Market
Street. Steaks come with a salad or clam
chowder and a choice of starch.
Dinner: After such a heavy lunch, birthday dinner at Takashi restaurant seemed wise. There, I could just nibble on a couple of pieces of nigiri and maybe enjoy a light bowl of miso. Well, that’s easier said than done. When seated in front of my favorite sushi chef, Takashi Gibo, the tendency is to dine with abandon, which I did—and quite successfully, in fact. (I am a professional.)
I’ve learned at any sushi bar—but especially
Takashi—to put myself in the chef’s
hands saying, essentially, “feed me.” It’s
called omakase in Japan, or, to “entrust”
oneself to the chef. I’ve been entrusting
myself to Takashi for years, and he has yet
to disappoint. At times, he’s expanded the
boundaries of what I thought I was willing
to eat. Monkfish liver comes to mind.
Dinner began with an amuse of New Zealand salmon mousse, followed by a spectacular array of five, single-bite teasers on a thin, rectangular plate: tai (sea bream) with yuzu-tomatillo sauce; tako (Japanese octopus) with mozuku seaweed; a kumamoto oyster; ankimo with miso; and salmon tataki with jalapeño sauce. Wow. But we were just getting started.
As we watched Takashi work his magic,
the word “precision” kept popping into
my head: artistic precision. Bluefin tuna
topped with a bone-marrow meringue
was as creative and delicious as anything
I’ve eaten in years, and was followed
by a torched (literally) sablefish
nigiri. Kurobuta pork belly with spicy miso
was simply sensational. Komada (gizzard
shad); kanpachi (amberjack); toro gunkan
with caviar, truffle oil and yuzu—I was one
happy birthday boy! The finishing Takashi
touch: green-tea panna cotta, which helped
to remind me why Takashi is my favorite
Utah restaurant—the sort of place you
want to celebrate a special day.
Left Fork Grill
68 W. 3900 South
Market Street Grill University
260 S. 1300 East
18 W. Market St.