One Is the Loneliest Number | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

One Is the Loneliest Number 

Bosnian refugee fights the odds and franchises; wins hearts and palates.

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Every week'indeed, pretty much every day'I receive e-mails singing the praises of this restaurant or that. I read them all. I appreciate them all. Most of my best local restaurant discoveries have come directly from you: knowledgeable City Weekly food mavens. This week’s review is a case in point. I first began hearing about Una restaurant in Sandy a few months back, when a loyal customer wrote to tell me that the restaurant “was definitely a 10.” (Thanks, Shane). That communicae was followed by another, from Diane, who called herself “a very satisfied patron” and essentially reviewed the entire Una menu for me. Other Una missives followed, all positive, and none were sent by marketing or PR folks. I’m pretty sure this restaurant doesn’t have any marketing or PR folks; it’s just not that kind of place. Nevertheless, I’ve received more feedback about Una than any restaurant in recent memory.

nn

Una Mediterranean Restaurant is the type of restaurant I find difficult to write about. I too am tempted to jump on the Una bandwagon. It’s a restaurant I like very much. However, I don’t want to overhype it. It’s not the “next best thing.” It’s not a “fabulous looking piece of eye candy.” And the cuisine at Una certainly isn’t “cutting edge.” Service is sketchy and unpredictable, but always friendly. This ain’t The Metropolitan. So why is it so popular?

nn

Maybe the lack of pretension at Una is endearing to customers. It was to me. There is no permanent host or hostess guarding the dining room at Una, so we stood inside the front door for a few moments before a server noticed us. Quickly, we were seated: “Anywhere you want. Would you like a booth?” Scanning the oversize dining area, a booth against the wall seemed a good choice. I didn’t want to be seated “on stage” at one of the center tables in this cavernous eatery. High arched ceilings ad to the spacious feel at Una and you need binoculars to see if there’s anyone you know seated at the far end of the place. Heavy burgundy colored drapes and tablecloths tend to make Una look more formal than it is. Feng shui has not yet reached this restaurant.

nn

Una is a pan-Mediterranean restaurant owned and operated by Mirza Miljkovic, who landed in Utah with his wife and two children via the Catholic Humanities Ministry, refugees from the war in Bosnia. You can read more about Miljkovic’s evolution into restaurateur in Stephen Dark’s great City Weekly’s 2006 Dining Guide piece, and so I won’t revisit all of that here. In a nutshell, Miljkovic'a one-time army chef who cooked for 2,500 troops'found himself here in Salt Lake City washing dishes at Primo restaurant before eventually working his way into the kitchens of Roma and the Cedar Creek Grill. At Una, he cooks up dishes from Italy, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, all with a slightly old-fashioned Continental appeal.

nn

A young guy dressed in a white chef’s coat opened our BYOB wine, recommended some starters, then joined a couple at a booth a few spots over from ours to eat. Strange, we’d thought he was the chef. Next, another fellow (a server?) took our orders, which were brought to us by a woman who we never saw again during dinner. A fourth staff member, a guy named Carter, brought us our appetizers and a complimentary plate of hummus and pita slices as we sat and pondered the logic of service at Una. An order of Una Meza ($6.50) was terrific: A plate of intensely flavored Turkish sausage called soujuk and delicious Yugoslavian chevap sausage, made in-house. The meats came served with wedges of ripe tomatoes, sour cream, sliced red onions, pita bread and ajvar, a Balkan relish made from red peppers, garlic, eggplant and red chilies. Portions at Una aren’t skimpy: There was plenty of Una Meza leftover for a tasty midnight snack.

nn

Next stop: An appetizer from Greece. The mussels Saganaki ($6.50) were delightful. A large bowl of sautéed black mussels came bathed in tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, herbs and white wine, all topped with crumbs of feta cheese. The only flaw was the lack of a discard dish for the mussel shells. Between courses more warm pita and more hummus was delivered, gratis.

nn

Miljkovic makes pasticcio ($13.50) which is not to be confused with his pastitsio ($13.50). The former is “classic lasagna,” according to the menu, with layers of meat sauces, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan cheese and tomato sauce. Pastitsio, on the other hand, is baked macaroni with veggies, béchamel sauce, and topped with feta cheese and pine nuts. And from Italy and Greece we move onto one of Una’s most satisfying dishes, Tunisian chicken ($13.50). A large, tender chicken breast comes smothered in a red harissa sauce, just slightly spicy, with julienned red onions, red peppers and a hint of cardamom. Alongside is garlic-and-almond-infused couscous and, unfortunately, rather pedestrian vegetables.

nn

Carter'a terrific server, by the way'recommended the veal a la natural ($18.50) to me, and I’m glad he did. Although the plentiful veal cutlets were a bit too thick, the flavor was splendid thanks to a natural sauce of shallots, white wine, lemon and dill. Finally, the Catalan “burnt cream” ($4) called simply crema Catalana is a must dessert.

nn

Una may not be America’s best or hippest restaurant'or even the best in Sandy'but it’s the fulfillment of one man’s American dream and a welcome escape in Franchise City.

nn

UNA MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT
n8650 S. 1300 East
n566-0635
nLunch Monday-Friday
nDinner Nightly

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