Thursday, October 14, 2010

Summerhay's Halibut & Chips

Address: 4870 S. Highland Cir., Salt Lake City, UT 84117. 801.424.9000.

: Summerhay's Halibut and Chips was a "I've-driven-by-this-joint-a-thousand-times-let's-check-it-out" decision. Oftentimes such a decision uncovers hidden culinary gems. This was not one of those times.

Summerhay's, obviously, prides itself on it's halibut and chips meal; so much so that when I asked the cashier what I should order, he said, "our halibut is what makes us famous." Um, not so much. For $12 I received three small breaded halibut pieces and a mess of ho-hum fries. The halibut, in addition to being under-seasoned, was overcooked. The malt vinegar served with the meal was an industrial vinegar anyone can buy at Walmart.

There were two things I enjoyed at Summerhay's: the fry sauce, and the cole slaw. I'm a sucker for fry sauce, and Summerhay's makes a pretty darn good hickory version. The cole slaw was a shredded slaw with a sweet yellow sauce. While I'm not sure what made the sauce yellow, the sweetness and acid were nice contrasts to the fattiness of the fries and fried fish.

Bottom line: the signature dish was expensive and not very well done.

Rating: 3.5/10 (5/10 is average)

Summerhays on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Little America Coffee Shop

Address: 500 S. Main St., Salt Lake City, UT 84101. 801.596.5700.

Review: Restaurants in hotels are usually hit and miss. Often, it seems the hotel proprietor thinks, "Hey, we have a captive audience here, so let's serve them marginally-okay-although-thoroughly-overpriced food." Alright, I'm not sure how often that actually happens, but that sure seems to be what the proprietor of Little America was thinking when he opened his restaurant.

I had the buffalo burger. (Note: The American buffalo is actually bison, but we've been using the wrong name for centuries now.) Having lived in Nebraska, where Ted Turner has annoyed everyone by buying every plot of land and turning it into a buffalo range, I've eaten buffalo before. It's a good and tasty meat. This burger, however, was not. The meat was bland and lifeless (no pun intended). The menu indicated it came with grilled onions and blue cheese. Hogwash. The onions were barely cooked, and the blue cheese was so minimal I could barely taste it. Additionally, the bun was soggy and started breaking apart within forty-five seconds of the burger arriving at the table. The whole thing was a total loss, and at $10+ it was an overpriced total loss to boot.

I wasn't the only one in the group who felt this way about his lunch. We all disapproved of the quality of the food. In fact, we unanimously decided that next month's networking lunch would take place at a restaurant not in a hotel, and preferably one with far better food.

Rating: 4/10 (5/10 is average)

Little America Coffee Shop on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bombay House

Address: 2731 E Parley's Way, Salt Lake City UT, 84109. 801.581.0222.

Review: I have a confession: I love Indian food. I love it almost as much as I love Italian food. In fact, when I enjoy a little Indian, it sort of feels like I'm cheating on Italy. Oh well, a little cheating never hurt anyone, right?

Seriously though, both cuisines are as delicious as they are divergent. Italian food is the ultimate rags to riches story. At its heart, it's a pauper food, based on severe poverty, simplicity, and quality of ingredients. Only relatively recently has it been elevated to a rich man's food. Indian food (in a broad sense), a pauper food in its own right, is based more on complexity of spicing, heat, and extracting maximum flavor from lower quality cuts of meat. Indian food's strong vegetarian strain also sets it apart from other cuisines. Anyway, does the Bombay House do Indian food justice and make me feel okay about my cheating ways? Hell yes.

I've been going to the Bombay House since a friend recommended it at BYU during our ungrad days. The place had me at chicken coconut kurma. Since that first time, oh so many years ago, the Bombay House has extracted untold amounts of money from my wallet. And the quality has only increased over the years. It is one of the better restaurants I have ever frequented. Tonight's dining experience was no different.

We started with the saag shorba (a soup of cream, spinach, tomatoes, and spices).

Sure doesn't look like much, but add a little lemon wedge and this stuff is money. The spinach and the cream make it substantial. The spices make it complex and flavorful. The tomato and lemon cut through the fat of the cream and make the soup refreshing. Goodness, I'm salivating just lookin' at it.

We then moved on to the main event: bhuna gosht. (At least, I think it's called bhuna gosht. It's a new dish, so I might be off base with the name. In any case, it's a lamb dish cooked with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, ginger, and various spices.)

Here's a picture of the entire spread.

Top right hand corner is the rice, and mango chutney populates the right bottom right. The lamb dish was had a good acidic quality on the tongue, which played well against the inherent fattiness of the lamb. The potatoes were really well cooked: mostly soft, but with just enough texture left to make them interesting. This, coupled with a little mango chutney, made my mouth happy.

And let's not forget the naan.

Light, carbonized in the right way, not doughy. Good stuff.

While we only had water tonight, the mango lassi is very good, as are the desserts. The kheer is a rice pudding with cardamom, cashews, and golden raisins. If you like cardamom (and why wouldn't you?), you'll dig kheer.

A note on price: the Bombay House ain't cheap. The saag shorba is $3.50. The entrees range from $12 to $15. A full dinner for two will run you about $35 to $40. But who gives a rip? Buck up and pay the cash. You'll be better for it.

Rating: 9/10 (5/10 is average)

Bombay House (SLC) on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bruges Waffles and Frites

Address: 336 West Broadway, Salt Lake City, UT 84101. 801.363.4444.

Review: First things first, Bruges ain't no McDonald's, nor is it a Waffle House, although it sells both fries (a.k.a. frites) and waffles (a.k.a. gaufres). While I don't usually comment on ambiance (because, in the end, who really cares? It's all about how the food tastes), this place is wonderfully unpretentious. It's small like a phone booth is small. In fact, more institutional space seems devoted to the mayonnaise container than to customer seating. Eat outside or take the food to go. And now, the food.

Bruges's frites are made in the Belgian vein. They are thicker than the shoestring potatoes, yet they are smaller than steak fries (thankfully, because, really, who's ever had a good steak fry?). The key to frites like these is the cooking, or rather double cooking. They are initially partially cooked in oil in order to cook them through. Then they are cooked a second time in order to crisp the outside. This procedure produces a light, airy, and crispy frite. These fatty little crunchy gems are paired with hand-made mayonnaise. (This is as it should be. Once you try a good mayonnaise with fries, you'll never want ketchup again.) The mayonnaise selection is wide-ranging. I tried the aioli (mayo with garlic) and a spicy version, the name of which I can't remember. Both were quite good. These were the best fries I've had in a very, very long time.

And then there are the waffles. These waffles are yeast risen, and are not poured; the dough is far too thick for that. They are sweet and dense, with a good amount of crispiness on the outside. My wife and I ordered ours with creme fraiche. This decision is a departure from our wont to put nutella on bready desserts, but what a grand departure it was. The creme fraiche was both light and lightly sweetened -- a great compliment to the waffle.

I dig this joint, a lot. It has become the go-to place when I need a fix for fat, salt, and potatoes. My one disappointment was the price. Usually, this stuff is simple street food in Europe, and is priced accordingly. At Bruges, however, the food is priced as if you were sitting down at a restaurant. That said, I'll be paying whatever they want in perpetuity.

Rating: 8/10 (5/10 is average)

Update: Last night, I took a friend to Bruges's for his birthday. He ordered the torpedo (two chocolate bars melted inside a liege waffle). Said it was grand, he did. I went the savory route and purchased a machine gun sandwich. It's a baguette stuffed with lamb sausage, topped with frites, and smothered in sauce andalouse. Yeah, two words describe this sandwich: big, money. Each component was quite good, and each was designed to accentuate the the meaty nature of the sandwich. In all, great combination of savory flavors. I would suggest, however, sharing this sandwich with a loved one. Eating the entire thing is almost a sisyphean undertaking.

Bruges Waffles and Frites on Urbanspoon