Snowbird's Lodge Bistro | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Snowbird's Lodge Bistro 

'Bird Bistro: Chef R.J. Peterson’s high-altitude cooking hits high notes.

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With Utah’s spectacular summer weather, you probably don’t need much arm-twisting to find your way to a sun-drenched patio for dining. However, I recently visited a terrific restaurant, equipped with a patio and stunning mountain views, that might not appear on your radar screen: Lodge Bistro, located on the pool level in The Lodge at Snowbird. While the Aerie might pull in most of the higher-end dining dollar at Snowbird, the Lodge Bistro quietly chugs along, offering an intimate, friendly ambiance and service—and some of the best food you’ll find in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

The Lodge Bistro is sort of a “what you make it” dining spot. It’s a perfect setting for a romantic dinner for two, with tabletop candles and fresh flowers on the patio or inside. But, it’s also a versatile place where college chums or a girls-night-out posse might meet, after splashing around in The Lodge Club pool and hot tub, for a more rowdy meal to kick off an evening at the Lodge Bistro’s adjacent lounge. There’s a wide range of imported and domestic beers available in the Lounge, including Chimay, Newcastle, Guinness, Coopers and Ayinger, along with High West Distillery whiskies, a good tequila selection and more.

Over in the bistro, I was impressed by the well-rounded wine offerings—by the glass and the bottle—as I perused the dinner menu and wine list. Our young server, Hunter, was surprisingly adept at wine service; it’s obvious that Snowbird has put some effort into training its service staff in wine matters. So, a suggested Charles de Fere Brut was a perfect foil for a starter sautéed diver scallop on a bed of shaved fennel, splashed with a reduced red grape syrup. The French bubbly also worked wonders with a gorgeous butternut squash soup ($7), adorned with a pretty pink beet juice drizzle and, in fact, right through to a bowl of steamed black mussels ($11) in a citrusy white wine broth with grilled bruschetta. These are the same mussels available on Sundays during winter at the Bistro Lounge in all-you-can-eat mode. We were told one guy managed to polish off 12 bowls. That’s what I call a mussel man!

Although it’s the wintry-est of dishes, I can rarely resist a bowl of French onion soup. And the Lodge Bistro’s is very, very good. A ceramic terrine of hearty soup is “sealed” on top with a layer of crisp, crunchy Gruyere and toasty homemade croutons—a killer soup any time of year, and yet another bistro selection that cries out for bubbles alongside.

Chef R.J. Peterson has been running the Lodge Bistro for five years now, and he really seems to have things dialed in. Given the seasonal nature of operating a resort restaurant, I’m always pleasantly surprised when the food and service is of such a high quality as I found at the bistro. Formerly an Ogden bartender and graphic designer with a degree in business administration, the tall, lanky, humorous Peterson says “I had an early midlife crisis and enrolled in culinary school in Portland.” After graduating in 2000, he moved to Chicago and worked for Rick Bayless at his renowned restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo. Not a big fan of Windy City weather, Peterson returned to Utah in 2002, where he cooked at Fresco Italian Café for three years before joining Snowbird to take the reins at the Lodge Bistro as chef and general manager. Through the years, he’s worked harder and harder to utilize fresh, local, in-season ingredients in his dishes and treat them with a “hands-off” type of respect, allowing excellent meats, produce and such to sing for themselves, without too much interference.

A good example of Peterson’s more-is-less philosophy of cooking is his stellar cedar-plank salmon ($24), which he’s bold enough to cook medium-rare—beautifully crisp on the outside and moist and juicy inside—and, blessedly, not smothered in a heavy sauce but adorned simply with crisp haricots vertes and a side of bacon-spiked potato “hash.” It’s a simple dish that’s simply a knock-out. But equally appealing is his Kobe beef rib-eye steak ($34), cooked to perfection and served with decadent Sarladaise potatoes—layered potato slices cooked with fresh thyme, salt, pepper and a thin brushing of duck fat that is said to be served in every one of the 67 restaurants in Sarlat, France. I suppose it’s needless to say that spuds with duck fat is the bomb.

Obviously, my diet was completely trashed at the Lodge Bistro. But, there are lots of opportunities for hiking and other activities at Snowbird to burn calories, so I couldn’t resist trying something as tempting as Foster’s Glorified Grilled Cheese. This is a wicked throwdown of a grilled cheese sandwich: thick, buttery, grilled sourdough bread slices stuffed with Gruyere, Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses and adorned with fresh tomato, basil aioli and red onion ($9). It seems like there ought to be something illegal about that.

If you’ve got a room at The Lodge for the night, I suggest rounding out your bistro dinner with a mocha martini, Cognac or Port, or a glass of Bonny Doon’s Vin de Glaciere Muscat. If you’re driving, stay with the Sticky Toffee Pudding ($6), with buttery caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream; it’s guaranteed to bring out the little kid in you. Oh, and speaking of kids, the Lodge Bistro also serves up a kids’ menu with unscary items like chicken fingers, standard grilled cheese, PB&J and burgers. Keep in mind, however, that the Lodge Bistro is only open in summer for dinner Thursday through Sunday, so plan accordingly.

The Lodge at Snowbird
Highway 210, Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, Snowbird


Ted Scheffler:

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