All too often, trying to eat healthy in restaurants means settling for a salad or attempting to enjoy some bland, under-seasoned plate of tofu, tempeh or seitan. But thanks to the creativity and sensitivity of many modern chefs, diners no longer have to sacrifice flavor in an effort to dine healthfully. To wit, here are a half-dozen restaurant offerings demonstrating how talented chefs incorporate healthy ingredients into fabulously delicious dishes.
Scallops are a zero carb, low calorie, high protein, nutritious shellfish brimming with good Omega-3 oils. They are also an excellent source of trace minerals such as selenium, zinc and copper that many of us don’t get enough of in our diets. And, scallops are sweet and buttery without the addition of sugar or butter. At Stoneground Italian Kitchen, Head Chef Justin Shifflett gives Seared Scallops a first-class upgrade, serving them with made-in-house acini de pepe (a type of Italian pasta that looks similar to couscous) blanched and finished with squash stock, parsley, oregano and rosemary. It comes with grilled escarole, tart apple, and crispy La Quercia prosciutto. Healthy food sticklers could just forego the prosciutto, if necessary, but it gives the dish both texture and flavor.
At Root’d Cafe in Cottonwood Heights, you can enjoy not-so-healthy comfort foods like beignets, mac ‘n’ cheese, meatloaf, and a Croque Madame sandwich if you’d like. But, there are healthy choices at Root’d as well: spinach and avocado bene, breakfast quinoa, tempeh BLT, avocado toast, and more. For example, a delicious dish that will appeal to vegans and those eating gluten-free is the Vegan Tofu Scramble. Seasoned tofu is scrambled up with zucchini, cabbage and spinach and topped with avocado and chives. Sounds sort of sinful, but it ain’t.
Cauliflower seems to have become the “it” veggie in restaurants over the past year or two. And why not? It’s a very healthy source of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants, and versatile enough to be prepared in myriad ways. Some nutritionists say it aids in weight loss. Well, if you’re looking for a top-notch treatment of cauliflower, look no further than Cucina Wine Bar and Chef Joey Ferran’s Roasted Romanesco Cauliflower. The cauliflower is roasted until lightly charred and served with a delectable, rich Oaxacan-style red mole and blood orange mojo; pico de gallo made with nopalitos (cactus); and topped with fried yucca strips and petite verdolagas. And, it’s gluten-free as well.
It’s not all that easy to find healthy, fresh, fine food in Davis County. The landscape is sprawling with fast food franchises. However, tucked away in a Kaysville shopping center is the best sushi restaurant you probably haven’t tried: Nikko Sushi & Ramen. Nikko is the creation of a chef well known to Utah sushi lovers named Sunny Tsogbadrakh. At Nikko he serves a version of Poke Tuna that is second to none. He cuts top-quality sushi-grade tuna into generous chunks and tosses them with pink salt, sesame oil, chili peppers, avocado, seaweed, shiso and diced mango. It’s nutritious, low in fat, and loaded with protein—perfect poke.
There’s no shortage of healthy dining options on Chef Dave Jones’ menu at Log Haven. The Southwestern Caesar salad is one of my faves, as are dishes such as Korean Cauliflower with crushed cashews, scallions, sweet/spicy gochujang glaze, or the gluten-free seared scallops with shiitake dashi, stir-fried shiitakes, baby bok choy-daikon salad, and grilled rice cake. But one customer favorite—another gluten-free dish—is Jones’ Chipotle-Honey Glazed Salmon. It’s a daring and inventive creation—perfectly cooked salmon on a hominy puree bed with blistered shishito peppers, jalapeño-tomato confit, salsa verde dollops, and crispy tortilla straws. It makes my head spin that simple salmon can be so sensational … not to mention good for you.
At Park City’s Firewood restaurant, Chef/Owner John Murcko and his crew cook everything—and I mean everything—over fire using a state-of-the-art wood-stoked grill. One of the more amazing healthy dishes I’ve encountered in a restaurant is Firewood’s stunning Jackfruit entree. In case you’re unfamiliar, jackfruit is a tropical fruit, which, when you get inside of the tough outer skin, has the texture and appearance of shredded meat. That’s why you’ll find it stuffed into things like tacos in some restaurants. At Firewood, jackfruit is the key component of an entree that sort of looks like a small loaf of zucchini bread. Jackfruit, shallots and herbs are minced and formed into a loaf with cashew cheese, then cooked and served with carrots, crispy garbanzo beans, broccolini, and red pepper romesco. It’s a delectable dish that’s as healthy as it is gorgeous to behold.
Photos by Ted Scheffler.