Looking for one of the best culinary experiences in Utah?
If interesting restaurants are any indication, this is a very good time to be living in Utah.
I’ve been writing about food and drink in the Beehive State for 25 years now, but I’ve never been more enthusiastic about dining options here than I am now.
Regrettably, we’ve lost some beloved dining destinations recently—places such as The New Yorker, The Paris, and Aristo’s.
But for every eatery that closes, it seems like three new ones open up.
An Oquirrh occasion
Certainly, one of the best culinary experiences in Utah one can have can be had at the restaurant Oquirrh, which opened its doors about three months ago.
The owners are the talented Andrew (Drew) and Angelena Fuller, a husband and wife team with extensive restaurant experience.
It’s great to see them finally have a place to call their own—the space that was occupied by Vertical Diner (the sister Vertical Diner branch remains open on 900 South).
Following a thorough makeover, Oquirrh has been busy and bustling since it opened, not surprising given the inviting atmosphere and excellent cuisine.
A note to those looking for a quiet evening:
Oquirrh is a very loud restaurant with lots of flat surfaces for noise to bounce off and reverberate. The owners are aware of this and I was told that they’re planning to remedy the noise problem; perhaps they already have. You’ve been warned.
Despite this, Oquirrh still remains one of the best culinary experiences in Utah one can have.
I love the way the straightforward, no-nonsense menu reads, with dishes simply named “Duck,” “Lamb,” “Smoked Cabbage,” “Bass,” and the like.
It’s not a “cute” menu. An outstanding starter, for example, is simply called “Carrots” ($12).
It’s a dish that had its origins at Pago, where Drew Fuller was sous chef and chef de cuisine. He also cooked at Copper Onion, HSL, and renown Coi restaurant in San Francisco.
The carrots are served salad style, at a cool temperature. It’s an eye-popping presentation of roasted, braised, and miso-cured carrots served with a brown rice chip on a pesto bed made from carrot tops; a truly delicious dish that even gluten-free diners can enjoy.
Another terrific shareable salad is Griddled Radicchio ($14), a marvelous melange of slightly bitter grilled radicchio with chunks of mellow raw cow’s milk Bleu D’Auvergne cheese, crispy fried shallots, house-cured bacon, and bright red Calabrian chilies to spice things up a bit.
It’s a dish I’ll probably order every time I visit this stand-out restaurant, which I hope will be often.
And speaking of dishes, Oquirrh spared no expense in investing in beautiful ceramic serving bowls and plates which serve to make the artful cuisine here even more attractive to the eye than it would be on mundane dinnerware.
In the middle of what was an otherwise perfect meal, however, was a dish called “Caviar.”
Frankly, this one made my jaw drop, but not for the right reasons. I’m not quite sure what I expected—and I should have asked for a description of the dish from our outstanding server—but what came to our table certainly didn’t justify its $23 price tag.
It was two bite-size mini-towers of radish and potato tart rounds about the diameter of a quarter, with small dollops of caviar and creme fraiche, garnished with celery leaf.
At $11.50 per bite—even given the high price of caviar—this is one of the most expensive foods I’ve been served in quite some time.
A dish like that one makes the House Made Pasta seem like a steal, at $29. This was an exceptional preparation of homemade bucatini-type pasta with generous morsels of butter-poached lobster, Pecorino cheese, celery leaf, and crushed black pepper. The kitchen absolutely nailed it with this perfect pasta.
Equally satisfying was an order of Sea Bass ($32) with mushrooms, salt-baked turnip slices, fresh greens, and smoked wakame (edible seaweed) fumet. I really liked the bass a lot, especially with that silky and sensational fumet, but next time I’ll probably opt for the enticing:
Oquirrh lamb dish—an excellent cuisine
Curry fried lamb shank with garam masala roasted vegetables, naan, eggplant relish and raita ($41). It’s the kind of dish, and the kind of must-eat destination restaurant that makes eating in Utah so rewarding these days.
Culinary quote of the week:
I was at this restaurant. The sign said ‘Breakfast Anytime.’ So I ordered French Toast in the Renaissance.. — Steven Wright
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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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