It’s still early in 2019, but so far the most exciting event for local food enthusiasts, IMHO, has been the opening of SLC Eatery. Don’t let the name – which is about as generic as it gets – fool you. There is nothing generic or mundane about the cuisine at SLC Eatery.
The new restaurant is the love child of co-chefs and co-business partners Paul Chamberlain and Logen Crew. The dynamic duo has worked together in many Utah restaurant kitchens, including Log Haven, Trio, Fresco, and Stanza Italian Bistro & Wine Bar. Having hitched their horses to other restaurateurs’ wagons in the past, Chamberlain and Crew decided last year to create a restaurant to call their own. That restaurant is SLC Eatery. And it couldn’t happen to two nicer guys. You’ve no doubt heard horror stories about chefs who scream, yell and throw things in their kitchens. These two are much more likely to be found laughing than launching plates at line cooks. The amiability of the chefs/owners spills out into the dining rooms, where diners are treated to highly professional, but equally friendly, service.
SLC Eatery is one of a number of new restaurants and bars that are enlivening a stretch of Main Street and includes neighboring Tinwell and Proper Burger Company. Awaiting diners at their table is a piece of pinewood to which are attached the restaurant’s menus. There’s also always an amuse bouche to tantalize the palate.
Unique to this dining spot are dim sum style carts that deliver bite-size items such as tuna crudo ($5), a Tokyo Turnip ($3), Oyster with Mignonette ($3), Stewed Fresh Chickpea ($4) and others. The cart menu changes frequently, which will help keep the flavors at this new eatery fresh and interesting. The dim sum cart idea was inspired by a visit to San Francisco’s State Bird Provisions restaurant, a dim sum-driven fine dining hot spot.
In addition to the bite-size cart items are an enticing array of appetizer or small plate options which include a Little Gems salad ($7) with dates, bacon, croutons and Heber Valley White Cheddar dressing, as well as Cold Smoked Sardines ($9) and Winter Squash Soup with hominy, achiote and green apple ($7).
On my first visit to SLC Eatery, a friend and owner of Frog Bench Farms – Joe Sargetakis – said enthusiastically, “Have you tried the calamari?” Well, we had. And it was outstanding. Tender, flavorful grilled calamari ($11) is tossed with crispy fried rice wafers, sliced jalapeño, tajin seasoning, and cilantro aioli. If your idea of calamari is breaded, deep-fried squid with spaghetti dipping sauce, you need to pay a visit to SLC Eatery and try theirs.
And yet, probably my favorite appetizer was the simplest: The hearty Utah Scones ($6) are served with an indescribably delicious cheddar cheese rillette that’s impossible to resist, so don’t.
Like the restaurant’s food offerings, the SLC Eatery beverage list consists of intelligent, provocative choices, including a smattering of cocktails and after dinner drinks, a few locally brewed beers, and well-selected wines such as Carol Shelton Coquille Blanc, Château D’Esclan Whispering Angel Rosé, Soter North Valley Reserve Pinot Noir and others.
Hungry yet? And I haven’t even mentioned entrees to this point. One of the more visually lovely main dishes is Birch Creek Trout ($27), which was served with pineapple brown butter, guajillo chile, Zürsun heirloom Idaho beans, radishes sliced paper thin, and fresh greens. It’s a gorgeous preparation that tastes every bit as great as it looks.
Even so, my favorite SLC Eatery entree is the Blue Prawn Agnolotti ($21). I still vividly remember the fantastic homemade agnolotti that Logen Crew used to create when he was the head chef at Fresco. Well, here is his absolutely divine agnolotti, served with head-on blue prawn, mushroom, leeks, chervil, and bacon consomme. It’s a dish that would be worthy of serving at the great NYC restaurant Le Bernardin, which I wrote about last week.
I think I detect the influence of chef Dave Jones in some of the SLC Eatery dishes – not surprising since both Crew and Chamberlain worked with Jones at Log Haven. In particular, the Cotija Cheese Tamalitos seem to be a Southwestern-inspired dish that Jones would approve of. It consists of small, tamale pillows (not unlike agnolotti) stuffed with cotija cheese. The tamalitos are served with a rich, slightly sweet pumpkin mole sprinkled with sesame seeds, charred red onions, fresh crema and Mexican oregano.
For dessert, I can highly recommend the Sake Poached Pear ($8) and the House Made Gelato ($5). But I really love the light and airy Nata de Coco ($8), which is a bowl of minced pineapple, kiwi and coconut with tapioca pearls and almond granita.
For a big finale, you’d be cheating yourself is you didn’t close an evening at SLC Eatery with a Bombarolo ($12), an after dinner drink made with whiskey, espresso, oat cream, egg, pecan orgeat syrup, cacao and macadamia.
If you’ve made it this far, you are no doubt intrigued by the eclectic, creative cuisine at SLC Eatery, and rightly so. Now keep in mind that I enjoyed all these dishes (and more) during multiple visits to the restaurant. I’m not that much of a glutton to have tried them all at one sitting. And yet, there are still menu items that I haven’t yet tasted and I’m so looking forward to doing so. I hope to see you at the table next to us!
Culinary quote of the week:
We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly. — Anna Thomas
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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