Moxi, With Moxie: A trip to Bountiful finds a treasure of a wine bistro.

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So, you get it, right? Moxi. As in: Dude, it takes moxie to open a wine bar in Bountiful. Yes, it does. Moxie—with an “e”—is also a trademark for a soft drink. And, Bountiful’s new Moxi Wine Bistro does indeed have soft drinks—attention-grabbing ones from Seattle’s Dry Soda Co. and Hotlips sodas from Portland, Ore. Flavors include lemongrass, vanilla bean, boysenberry, rhubarb and kumquat. But soda is not really the Moxi story. This is, after all, a wine bistro. And yes, it’s in Bountiful. Who knew?

Calling Moxi a wine bar might be a tad generous. The wine selection there features fewer than a dozen whites, a dozen-plus reds, a couple of sparkling wines and three dessert/post-dinner offerings. And, on my maiden voyage, the first two wines I ordered (Bethel Heights Pinot Gris and Selby Russian River Valley Chardonnay) weren’t available; they’d sold out. But, let’s not quibble. The wine list is interesting enough to tantalize both rookie and expert wine geeks, the wines are reasonably priced and, let’s not forget, we’re in Bountiful. One thing Moxi Wine Bistro doesn’t need to fret about is local competition. And, to make up for the out-of-stock vino, I was offered a Bluenose Zinfandel by the glass, which is normally sold only by the bottle. That made me happy.

OK, I’ve mentioned four times already that Moxi is located in Bountiful. But don’t let the locale fool you. This bistro is candy for the eyes, one that would fit comfortably into Salt Lake City’s Downtown Rising scheme— or, for that matter, SoHo in New York City or San Francisco’s Embarcadero. From the small, sleek, back bar and luxurious-looking banquets to the original photographic art on the walls—the latter created by Moxi server Mikelle Best—the place looks like someone threw a million bucks at it. In fact, though, it’s the product of contractor Joel Johnson and proprietor Wendi Lund, who previously served as general manager at Takashi, and she didn’t have a million dollars with which to create the eye-popping appeal.

Upon our first visit, Lund insisted that we kick things off with the lardon salad ($7), which was an excellent suggestion. Frisée turns out to be not so popular with Bountiful diners, so chef Rick Bruno 86’d the frisée, and now the foundation of the lardon salad is chopped Napa cabbage. The crisp cabbage is bathed in terrifically tangy warm vinaigrette and peppered with crisp pancetta lardons, homemade croutons, and topped with four or five perfectly poached quail eggs. If a salad can be ever called decadent, this one is.

Most of the wine is available by either the glass or bottle, and we started out with glasses of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($6/$25). Bouncing around the wine list, we next sipped glasses of A to Z Oregon Pinot Gris with beef carpaccio ($9). Perhaps not the most logical or classic food and wine pairing, but the wine was delicious and so was the carpaccio: beet-red, see-through slices of beef tenderloin, served with mixed fresh greens, pickled red onions and shaved Manchego cheese.

Next up: grilled prawns. I noticed the prawn dish being served to a couple at a nearby table and I also registered their look of bewilderment. Servers would be wise to give customers a heads-up, since the prawns are served heads up and on, shells and antennae intact and require a fair amount of technique to eat. This is a good thing, though I suspect not all diners would think so. The large prawns (four for $12)—called California spot prawns, or sometimes Alaska prawns— are split and beautifully charred on the grill, served whole and cooked just slightly to the done side of gelatinous. This, again, is a good thing. Bless the chef for not overcooking these lovely, tender, lip-smacking crustaceans, which come with citrus saffron rice.

Chef Rick Bruno is a mere 23 years old, and looks not quite old enough to drive. I’ve got wine in my house older than this kid. He sports gauge earrings, dreadlocks and a tat on his forearm that reads “cook or die.” But this guy has serious chops. There wasn’t a single dish I tried that wasn’t really good. And most were really, really good. Bruno did some time in the kitchen at Frida Bistro and Meditrina before coming to Moxi, and maybe that’s where he learned his way around small plates. Moxi is a small plates/ tapas restaurant that sports big, bold flavors. Bruno has traveled far and wide and spent more time in his brief career abroad than most people manage to do in a lifetime. In places like Asia and beyond, he’s learned the art of seasoning and spicing.

Lamb-loin medallions, for example, sing with a cucumber-mint “bombe” ($9) and come with yummy grilled yams alongside. And, the grilled game hen ($9), with its raisin-chili glaze, is moist, tender and delectable, accompanied by Israeli couscous studded with dried fruit. My only complaint is that certain dishes come on tapas-size saucers, which are too small to dig into without spillage. I have no complaint, however, about chef Bruno’s eggy, sensational panna cotta which was, quite simply, the best I’ve ever had.

To Salt Lake County urbanites, Bountiful might seem like a remote, if not exactly exotic, destination. In fact, it’s only a 12-minute drive from our downtown City Weekly offices—easy to get to, with plenty of free parking. So if, like me, you’re a wine enthusiast and a food lover, I recommend a trip to Bountiful.

1025 S. 500 West


Ted Scheffler:

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