It is hard for me to fathom that it’s been 25 years now since Park City restaurateur Bill White opened Chimayo restaurant. Where does the time go? I remember the opening well, as it was eagerly anticipated following the opening of White’s wildly successful Grappa restaurant in 1992. Personally, I was thrilled that Southwestern-style flavors – all but nonexistent here but for the Barking Frog – were coming to Utah.
As usual, Bill White spared no expense in the design and decor of Chimayo, a place that honors New Mexico’s El Santuario de Chimayo. Walking through the doors of this gorgeous restaurant transports guests to virtual New Mexico, with its mission style furniture, festive lighting, Southwestern throw pillows in the booths, Mexican floor tiles, candles, statues, a tiled fireplace and much more. Like all of White’s restaurants, Chimayo is a stunner.
But what’s a pretty restaurant without food to match? Well, Chimayo has both in spades. That’s largely due to longtime Executive Chef Arturo Flores, who has been working in Bill White restaurants for 27 years. Flores originally moved to the U.S. after completing law school in Mexico, but soon realized that “his passion was not in the courts, but rather in the kitchen.” That passion is in evidence throughout the Chimayo menu, from his Skewered Elk with coffee glaze, chipotle crema and avocado salsa ($20), to delectable dishes like his Duck Enchiladas ($48): honey-roasted duck, grilled onions and peppers, crisp duck leg confit, white bean relish, and poblano verde sauce. Flores’ Mexican heritage and culinary influences shine in menu items such as Puerto Nuevo-style Seared Sea Scallops ($52) with blood orange jalapeño beurre blanc, a dish that fuses French technique with Latin flavors.
As you peruse the Chimayo menu, I recommend enjoying a marvelous Margarita like the restaurant’s Cadillac Margarita, the Lux. Fresh squeezed lime juice is blended with Casa Noble Crystal Tequila, Grand Marnier, and Cointreau ($14). For those who like it hot, try the Serrano Chile Margarita ($13) made with muddled fresh serrano chiles. There is also an outstanding wine list at Chimayo with an especially robust selection of wines from Spain, Chile and Argentina.
You might want to sip that Margarita while enjoying the Queso Fundido ($18) appetizer. It’s a wonderful blend of Manchego, Gruyere, and Asadero cheeses topped with grilled jalapeño-tomato salsa and served with flatbread and homemade corn tortilla chips – the best restaurant tortilla chips I’ve ever had.
Guests at Chimayo are given a gratis basket of focaccia bread from Bill White’s Windy Ridge Bakery which comes with a heavenly bowl of Cilantro Bread Oil. The restaurant has recipe cards for some of their dishes to give to guests, including this one. It’s a very complex recipe that includes poblano chiles, pasteurized egg yolks, parmesan, rice vinegar, jalapeños, lemon juice, cilantro, canola oil and more. The end result is a spicy, Southwestern sort of aioli that is dangerously addictive.
Chef Flores’ homemade soups at Chimayo are out of this world and it’s difficult to say which is best since they’re all so satisfying. I love the sweetness of the Roasted Corn soup and the heartiness of Arturo’s Tortilla Soup, which is a recipe from his grandmother, with tomatoes and chunks of chicken and chiles to spice things up.
The Ceviche ($20) at Chimayo is listed as an appetizer but it, like most of the dishes here, is a gargantuan serving. Nobody goes home hungry from Chimayo and this ceviche was a heaping mound of chopped mahi-mahi, Gulf shrimp, cucumber, avocado, tomato, serrano chiles, onions and cilantro with a fresh, zesty citrus flavor. The ceviche is served with parmesan flatbread and those outstanding homemade tortilla chips.
The salads – beet salad, watermelon salad, and spinach salad are generous portions and can serve as entrees, easily. We shared the Stuffed Avocado Salad ($17) and had plenty leftover to take home. The salad was a melange of marinated veggies with papaya, shredded greens, avocado, and a luscious pasilla chile vinaigrette.
Moving onto the entrees, I was torn. The Rack of Lamb sounded great, but so did the Buffalo Flank Steak, the aforementioned Duck Enchiladas, and the Ahi Tuna Taco. Ultimately though, I opted for a classic Chimayo dish: the Crown Roast Barbecued Spareribs ($55). It’s hard to describe this dish without chuckling a bit because it is so over the top. It’s a massive amount of food – a dish that could be shared by four people and probably still have leftovers. The spareribs – which have been given a gorgeous caramelized chipotle chile glaze – are formed into a cylindrical shape, topped with mashed potatoes and onion rings, and served with a big helping hominy salpicon. The Crown Roast Spareribs dish is as delicious as it looks, not to mention an eye-popper and a crowd-pleaser.
My wife’s entree was also a plentiful one: Green Pipián-Seared Trout Fajitas ($46). Fresh Utah trout is seared on a cast iron skillet with a pumpkin seed crust and served with a vegetable medley, tortillas, guacamole, chipotle sour cream and pico de gallo. As with most of our Chimayo dishes, there were leftovers to take home.
Nearly incapable of moving by this time, we hadn’t planned to indulge in dessert. However, Chef Flores’ generously sent his Mexican Chocolate Fondue for Two ($12), and we were happy that he did. I don’t know that I’ve ever enjoyed a dessert more. This was rich, Oaxacan-style melted dark chocolate – heaven in an iron fondue pot – with churros, Mexican sugar cookies, strawberries and pineapple for dipping.
Chimayo – one of Park City’s most enduring and endearing restaurants – turned 25 this year and I have no doubt that it will still be thriving in 25 more years. I, for one, can’t wait to see what culinary tricks Chef Flores will have to share with us in the coming years. Congratulations to Arturo Flores, Bill White and his team on a quarter century of Chimayo excellence.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week:
“Breakfast cereals that come in the same colors as polyester leisure suits make oversleeping a virtue.” — Fran Lebowitz
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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.