Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Epic Casual Dining

Address: 707 Fort Union Boulevard, Midvale, Utah 84047. 801.748.1300.

Review: I thought about crafting this review using iambic pentameter, or, more boldly, iambic pentameter within a terza rima. That would have been all Dantesque and whatnot, but the subject matter has to warrant such linguistic exertion. This subject matter, unfortunately, does not. Maybe I'll save terza rima for the copious multitudes of Napton pizzerie we will be frequenting next summer. For now, the following couplet will suffice:

We journeyed in search of a succulent steak experience;
What we found left us perplexed and delirious.

(Yes, I know, it's an approximate rhyme. Sue me. I'm tired.)

By way of explanation, the waitress recommended the grilled beef tenderloin. "People come for miles around to eat it," she said. "Okay," I replied, "Let's do it. Medium rare. And can I have the creamed spinach?" A "sure" escaped her lips. And so, the die was cast. 

The steak, cooked to medium rare perfection, came practically affogato in a port reduction that lacked depth or much flavor. The steak itself lacked salt (a common theme, as wel shall see) and had a grainy texture on the tongue. The mashed potatoes, pleasantly extruded from a piping bag, were piping cold. The creamed spinach was the best part of the dish. It was mustardy and creamy with a bit of bite still present. One element does not a dish make, however.

My wife ordered the angel hair pasta with a cream sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, chicken, mushrooms, etc. Heavy is the word that sums up this dish. Nothing lightened the palet. There were no tastes to counterbalance the cream and fat. And it was entirely undersalted.

Ultimately, there just wasn't much there.

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

Epic Casual Dining on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Los Molcajetes

Address: 4031 W 4100 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84120.

Review: There's something magical about hole-in-the-wall joints. So often they're among the best food you ever have. They're entirely unpretentious. They're cheap. They're usually focused on food, and not on worthless things like cleanliness and tablecloths. Such is Los Molcajetes (Molcajetes).

I came to know of Molcajetes from a Mexican friend whose food opinion I deeply trust. Apparently, he and his family stumbled upon this place one evening, and it so impressed them they returned the next morning for breakfast. With an endorsement like that, how could I not partake?

Molcajetes is sandwiched between a Mexican grocery store, which come to find out is also quite good, and a hair salon. It's almost impossible to find unless you're looking right at it. Having come from work, I walked in with my pasty white skin enveloped by a Hugo Boss suit. I didn't quite fit in this working-class Mexican restaurant where the proprietress spoke only limited English. None of this was to matter in ten minutes. So, fumbling around with my limited Spanish, I managed to order a taco plate, complete with three tacos (carne adobado, cabeza, and carnitas), rice, and beans. My buddy ordered a cheese quesadilla plate. 

The tacos were good. The meats were tender, juicy, and flavorful. Not the best tacos I've had (that distinction is reserved for some taco truck guys around the city), but they were quite good. The tortilla were nice and crisped. The rice, like all rice one receives at a Mexican restaurant, was blah. I'm not sure why this is, but it seems like all these rices just filler. Anyway, after these two items, I thought I was in for a good, but nothing spectacular, Mexican meal. And then, the beans. Holy crap, the beans. I'm not sure what magic fairy dust they sprinkled over these beans, but they were very likely the best I have ever had. Only some Brazilian black beans and some Southern smoked ham hock beans even come close. The beans were earthy, meaty, viscous, and deeply satisfying. I polished off mine with gusto, and then turned to my friend's. He's not much of a bean guy, so I ate his entire portion. Fabulous, fabulous beans.

We also had horchata, which was sugary goodness, as it always is.

I hope next time I find an entree I enjoy more than the tacos, but it won't rightly matter, because I ain't going back for the entrees. I'm going back for those beans.

Rating: 7/10 (5/10 is average).

Ruth's Chris

Address: 2001 Park City Avenue, Park City, Utah 84060. 435.940.5070.

Review: We recently traveled the thirty miles from our home to Park City to celebrate my wife's birthday. The birthday meal was a challenge since most of Park City's upper-crust restaurants still hadn't opened by this time. Now, my wife an I aren't steak people. Once every six months is about our max. This noted, we thought we'd give Ruth's Chris a try. We'd heard good things. We were not disappointed.

We started with the osso bucco ravioli. Osso bucco is a wonderful concoction of veal shanks seared and then cooked low and slow in vegetables and wine. Honestly, the braising liquid is generally the best part of dish. And while the ravioli part of Ruth's Chris's osso bucco ravioli was good but not great (the pasta was too thick, among other things), the sauce was exceptional. Sauces like this is why crusty bread was invented. it was wonderfully fragrant and meaty; a joy to eat.

Next, the side. We ordered creamed spinach, mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, and a roasted tomato. First, the spinach. Creamy, rich, silky. You could taste the spinach, but the taste wasn't overpowering as it can be with some cooked spinach dishes. It went very well with the steak and blue cheese (more on those later). Second, the mashed potatoes. Velvety, garlicky, buttery. The roasted garlic gave the potatoes a deep and somewhat sweet flavor. Very good. Third, the tomato. Not sure what type it was, but it was roasted to sweet perfection. It kept its shape and texture well, and the roasting process brought out the natural sugars. We fought over this tomato to the bitter end.

And then, the steak. We ordered the bone-in ribeye. Medium rare, of course. Topped with blue cheese crumbles. It was perfectly cooked and tender. I'm not entirely sure how you adequately describe the taste of a good steak other than deep and meaty, which this steak was. My wife and I agreed the blue cheese was a distraction, not because it did not taste good, but because the steak tasted so good it needed nothing more than salt. Next time, we will have our steak naked, and we'll like it.

I'm not much of an ambience guy, but Ruth's Chris had a good feel to it. Low lighting. Large tables. Live music. Nice, high-class establishment where you can spend entirely too much for a very good steak, and an even better roasted tomato.

Rating: 8.5/10 (5/10 is average).

Ruth Chris Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Café Galleria

Address: 6055 S 900 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84121. 801.266.2225.

Review: Sometimes you have to say what you mean and mean what you said, and do it quickly. This is one of those times. Here it goes: Café Galleria is a hot mess. We were intrigued by the fact it utilizes a wood-fire pizza oven (usually a good sign), and the promise of Neapolitan-style pizza (Napton pizza). Lies, all lies. 

One of the advantages of using a wood-fire oven is it runs scalding hot. It should cook a pizza in approximately ninety seconds to two minutes, depending. So, it was disheartening when we were the only lunch patrons and we waited fifteen minutes for our pizzas. Not a good start.

I ordered the Siciliana, which included San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, roasted bell peppers, Italian sausage, and red onions. I also asked for prosciutto cotto (my favorite pizza ingredient). Every element of the pizza was, just, sad. Good Napton pizza has a thin supple crust. This crust was dense, gummy, and tough. The tomatoes tasted like nothing. The mozzarella had no flavor, no character. The sausage was dense, overly spiced, and overly processed. The onions ring slices were all different sizes, and some were end pieces entirely took thick, big, and dry to be on a pizza. And, to top it off, the prosciutto cotto advertised wasn't actually prosciutto cotto. It was, instead, prosciutto crudo that had been cooked until it took on the consistency of shoe leather. And just in case you think I'm being picky about nomenclature, I'm not. Prosciutto cotto refers to a very specific type of meat that is entirely different than prosciutto crudo. No one who has ever eaten a pizza in Italy would pass off cooked prosciutto crudo as prosciutto cotto. This lack of product knowledge is indicative, and very likely one of the primary reasons the pizza tasted as it did.

My wife's margherita was more of the same: bland, tough, lifeless, bad.

Now, to be fair, this is a new location for Café Galleria. My understanding is it's a Midway restaurant which recently opened in the Salt Lake Valley location. I have read good things about the Midway location. Maybe they haven't worked out the kinks in Salt Lake yet. We can hope, I guess.

Rating: 2.5/10 (5/10 is average).

Cafe Galleria on Urbanspoon