Don’t Give Up the Fight | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Don’t Give Up the Fight 

A good meal and a room at the inn help fight the funk.

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Let’s say, just hypothetically speaking, that your nation'the one whose independence you’ll be celebrating this Fourth of July'is engaged in an unjust or imprudent and costly war, the president is an arrogant nitwit that you wouldn’t loan a power tool to if he were your next-door neighbor, and the last time Saturday Night Live was worth watching was sometime in the past millennium. Health insurance is a distant memory and, by the way, where in the world did that waistline come from? Face it, you’re feeling funky.

nn

Well, before you reach for another fistful of Prozac, take heart. Maybe you just need a small vacation. And even one night of wining and dining in downtown Salt Lake City can be a recipe for fighting the funk, if you choose the right locations.

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I’ve always found that a really good meal can help to exorcize even the most stubborn demons. When I’m utterly angst-ridden, however, there are only a handful of local restaurants dependable enough to be virtually risk-free in terms of food and service to cure my ills. I won’t name all of them here (for fear that I’ll leave someone worthy out), but when existential crisis rears its ugly head, I opt for a restaurant like The New Yorker for care and comfort.

nn

First though, our mini-vacation needs a soundtrack. And the most upbeat album I’ve heard in about a decade is the debut of The Magic Numbers (themagicnumbers.net), especially the tune “Don’t Give Up the Fight,” which will serve as our anthem for the evening. If a good meal and the happy Mamas & Papas-meet-The Strokes sounds of The Magic Numbers can’t improve your outlook, then I’m afraid I’m about out of ideas, although Teenage Fanclub and Arcade Fire can also do the trick.

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For more than a quarter-century now, The New Yorker has been the go-to restaurant for fine dining in downtown Salt Lake. At or near the top of the heap in the downtown dining scene for about a generation, they’re clearly doing something right. And I think The New Yorker recipe for success is a fairly simple one: A blend of traditional and contemporary American cuisine paired with outstanding service in an almost timeless ambiance results in happy customers coming back year after year.

nn

Enjoying a wonderful New Yorker meal on a recent Saturday night, I wasn’t so much bowled over by cutting-edge cuisine. What I do love about the New Yorker'and what I think other longtime customers also like about the restaurant'is that it’s so damned dependable. Although the menu evolves with the times, the dishes that emerge from Chef Wil Pliler’s New Yorker kitchen aren’t trendy for the sake of being trendy. There’s a sort of classicism at work here; I never feel like I’m at the mercy of the latest food fad when I’m at the New Yorker.

nn

So why not kick off dinner with a classic plate of Kumamoto oysters ($12), shucked and served on a bed of ice with a heap of freshly shredded horseradish off to the side? And granted, what I’m about to recommend isn’t exactly a traditional food-and-wine pairing, but let’s not forget that we’re on a mission here to beat down the blues. So order up a New Yorker summer cocktail called Coppertone Punch ($7.50)'a lusty tropical mélange of pineapple juice, Midori, Malibu rum and crème de banana. Or for the conservatives in the crowd, you might opt for something a little safer like a glass of King Estate Pinot Gris ($9) with those oysters.

nn

Whether I’ve sneaked into The New Yorker anonymously or otherwise, my dining companions and I have never been treated as anything less than royalty. And the same goes for the happy diners seated nearby, whom I monitor closely. But I think that level of professional service stems from the fact that some of the seasoned professionals working at The New Yorker have been there since it opened in 1978. With service-driven pros like Wayne and Wendy tending to your needs, The New Yorker is pretty much unbeatable in terms of customer service.

nn

Still, when Wayne told me that The New Yorker’s shellfish “jambalaya” ($32) was made risotto-style with Arborio rice, I thought the chef had wigged out. I should have learned by now not to second-guess Pliler. His creamy Cajun-Creole flavored jambalaya with lobster, scallops and jumbo prawns was heavenly. More etouffé in style than jambalaya, it made me, as Emeril would say, “Happy, happy, happy!” I might never eat traditional jambalaya again.

nn

Although my perpetual favorite dish on The New Yorker menu is the braised Sonoma rabbit ($26) with olive, caper and Meyer lemon sauce, Chef Pliler’s fettuccine with chunks of Maine lobster bathed in tomato-basil cream sauce ($22) is also decadently fabulous. These delicious entrees are among the best I’ve encountered in Utah. Not that everything at The New Yorker is flawless, though. A recent salmon special was so oversalted that it was nearly inedible, proving that even the most dependable restaurants can’t bat 1.000.

nn

Since Saturday was date night, and I figured I’d wind up sozzled by the end, I booked a room at the Hotel Monaco for safety reasons. But for romantic reasons too, since the Monaco’s “Sixth Sense” package offers a menu of guilty pleasures like Champagne for two, a Bambara dessert sampler and a do-it-yourself dessert of Chocoholics Body Frosting. Oh, and then there’s the late 2 p.m. checkout and a delicious room service breakfast (blueberry pancakes highly recommended).

nn

So the next time you’re feeling a little … er, irritable … about the ways of the world, just treat yourself to a nice hotel room, a great meal … and don’t give up the fight.

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