Sunday, May 22, 2011

La Estacion del Taco

Address: Corner of 600 W and 200 S, SLC, UT 84101.

Review: Heaven has given us certain street foods so that we may be happy. Pizza is the first among these foods, but a close second is the taco. There's something magical about paying a buck for something so tasty that you can eat while walking down the street. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I was driving from a Saturday business meeting and happened upon a taco stand. How could I resist, honestly?

This taco stand is called "La Estacion del Taco" and offers the following staples:

What the menu doesn't show is the menudo, pozole, and other delights offered but not written. While the menudo tempted me, I decided to go with a taco triad: lengua, asada, and carnitas.

And these tacos come with all the trimmings: roasted jalapenos, grilled, onions, a selection of salsas and pico de gallo, radishes, etc. The lengua (yes, tongue) was perfectly cooked. It had that melt-in-your-mouth quality you want from well cooked tongue. The asada was a bit flat in the flavor department. It simply didn't have much seasoning or spicing. The carnitas, however, was flavorful and moist: quite good. The trimmings were very good as well. The pico de gallo was refreshing and light, and the hot salsa actually had a kick. Something another patron pointed out was this taco stand actually served sour cream, which was a nice touch. My one gripe is the tortillas. They are store-bought and lacking in that good corn flavor present in a freshly prepared tortilla. A better tortilla would have put this place over the top. As it is though, the tacos were pretty darn good, especially for a buck each.

Rating: 6.5/10 (5/10 is average).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Michelangelo Ristorante

Address: 3005 Highland Dr., Salt Lake City, UT 84106. 801.466.0961.

Review: We lived down the road from Michelangelo Ristorante and have driven past it a thousand times. We finally decided to try it out on my wife's birthday.

We began with prosciutto e melone: a classic pairing. The prosciutto was good quality, salty, meaty, thinly sliced. The melon was out of season and, in addition to being a bit tough, had not fully developed its sugar. Because of this, the prosciutto took over and the dish was too salty.

Next came the pasta dishes. I ordered the gnocchi al pesto, another classic dish.

Gnocchi are nothing more than cooked potatoes, flour, egg and salt. A truly good gnoccho is light and feels like a pillow in your mouth. (This might sound a bit far-fetched, but thus is the magic touch of really good gnocchi makers.) In contrast, these gnocchi were dense and bland. The pesto was more cream based than the traditional pesto genovese, and lacked any flavor of pine nuts or parmigiano reggiano, or basil for that matter.

Much the same could be said for the gnocchi al pomodoro.

Amazingly, there was no offer of parmigiano reggiano with this dish (a perfunctory gesture). Not that parm would have saved the dish from the blandness of the sauce, but it would have helped.

My wife had the ravioli filled with spinach.

The ravioli were supposed to be served with a sage and butter sauce, but it inexplicably came served with a sage and cream sauce, with a little bit of butter added. This aside, the ravioli were quality. They possessed that pop of spinach when bitten into. The pasta portion was thin texturally smooth. If the sauce had been what it said it would be, this dish would have been great.

And, because it was the wife's birthday, we ordered some desserts. She got the a cannolo, which was filled with sweetened ricotta, chocolate, and orange zest, and topped with berries.

While the cannolo was properly crunchy (something that doesn't happen often because they're filled hours before eating and become soggy), the flavors in the ricotta were muddled. There was no hint of orange, and the berries did not add much flavor to the dish.

I had the torta di frutta (misspelled torta de fruta on the menu).

This torta is, in reality, a crostata with a lemon cream filling covered in seasonal berries. The crust, which really should be the star of any crostata, was soggy and dense. There was neither flakiness nor flavor present. The filling had almost no lemon flavor to it, and thus was simply a bland creamy, sugary filling. And with no lemon to cut through the fat of the filling and contrast with the berries, there just wasn't much personality.

In the end, I would come back for the ravioli, but not for anything else.

Rating: 4.5/10 (5/10 is average. The ravioli saved the rating from being lower).

Michelangelo Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Mekong Cafe

Address: 7777 S State St, Midvale, UT 84047. 801.566.5747.

Review: The moment I walked in the Mekong Cafe I thought, man the food looked gorgeous. I saw generous plates of beef and pork and I was ready to partake. Unfortunately, I had eaten too much meat the preceding days, so I decided on the take-out vegetarian platter, which is a mess of vegetables (eggplant, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots) and tofu mixed with a spicy brown sauce.

The cashier asked how spicy I wanted the dish and rattled off the possible levels: mild, medium, hot, authentic. Authentic it was.

Surprisingly, the dish wasn't nearly as good as I had hoped. The vegetables still had a bit of bite to them, although their freshness was gone. The broccoli and mushrooms were quite tasty, but there was little flavor extracted from the other vegetables. The sauced lacked the complex interaction of contrasting flavors (e.g., sweet, sour, salty, heat, bitter) you expect from really good Thai food. And at authentic level, the heat index was significantly lower than expected.

Even though I wasn't a fan of the vegetable platter, I am going to reserve overall judgment of Mekong for now. It might be a case of food looking better than it tastes, but I cannot help but think the dish I ate was the exception and not the rule. I'll update after I've been back for some curried beef or something of the like.

Rating: On hold.

Mekong Cafe on Urbanspoon