As someone who is married to a restaurateur, I’ve never quite understood how marriages survive with couples working together in the same restaurant. But then, I guess that could be said of any business. I’m pretty sure working alongside my wife would not end well, because I would drive her crazy. But there are couples who make this situation work, like Angie and Andrew (Drew) Fuller, who own and operate Oquirrh restaurant. She patrols the front of the house while he heads up the kitchen. The couple make a great team and I can’t help but feel that the loving care that is put into the food at Oquirrh is an extension of the love Drew and Angie have for each other. Or maybe I’m just being sentimental.
Whatever the case, our dinner party and I were struck almost speechless by how much we enjoyed a recent meal at Oquirrh. It was worthy of applause. We hadn’t been there in a while, and it’s been pretty well documented that the restaurant was nearly a victim of the pandemic, but survived with the help of loyal customers and the community. “An infinite thank you to the many people that have helped us along the way,” say Angie and Drew via their website. Thank goodness the restaurant survived, because Oquirrh is, in my opinion, better right now than it’s ever been.
Oquirrh is a comfortable and casual fine dining establishment where Chef Drew Fuller and his team put a hearty emphasis on local, artisan foods and ingredients. It’s a beautiful restaurant, walls festooned with modern art courtesy of local artist Gerry Swanson. There’s a small bar/counter with a couple of seats adjacent to the restaurant’s entrance, and a window table also in front. Or, choose to be seated in the appealing main dining room which is typically lively.
I suggest sharing an order of Oquirrh’s wholesome House Sourdough Bread ($7) with homemade butter, sea salt and shaved radish as you peruse the eclectic menu and wine list. I see the fingerprints of Libation Inc.’s Francis Fecteau all over the Oquirrh wine list, which is a good thing since he represents outstanding wine producers like Scaia, Saracina, Trinafour, Louis Latour, Carol Shelton, Joseph Phelps, Judd’s Hill and others in Utah. Simply put, there are a lot of excellent wine choices as well as cocktails, beer, liqueurs, spirits and such.
To be truthful, a dish of Milk Braised Potatoes ($14) didn’t hold much interest for me. That is, until it arrived at our table. This was a bowl of perfectly cooked – milk braised – heirloom potatoes with curds, alliums, and an interesting whey vinaigrette that was poured over the spuds by our server at the table. It’s a very inventive dish that I would happily enjoy again and again. You might take note of the unique serving plates and bowls at Oquirrh, which are works of art in themselves and created by local ceramic artist Zach Braham.
Another standout sharable Oquirrh offering is Griddled Asparagus ($16), which probably sounds simple but wasn’t. A sous vide egg yolk sits in the center of the plate, bordered by fresh, creamy goat cheese, which in turn is framed by tender white and green grilled asparagus, topped with tarragon leaves and crispy bread crumbs. It’s an awesome asparagus preparation.
Service at Oquirrh is top-flight, just like the cuisine and decor, and I was happy that our server was Natalie – someone who I remembered very favorably when she was a bartender/server at Tradition a few years ago. She left an impression. I think she recommended the house-made Radiatore Pasta ($26) to one of my stepsons, which he gobbled up with enthusiasm. The homemade spiral-shaped pasta was tossed with wild mushrooms and braised beef, with roasted potatoes, Pecorino cheese and Italian saba. There is another tempting pasta option at Oquirrh: house-made Canestri Pasta ($17) with Amatriciana sauce, burrata, guanciale, and salsa verde.
My wife loved her market fish ($35) entree, which was grilled and glazed with soy, served with clams, chicken broth & clam juice dashi, bok choy, and mushrooms, sprinkled with white and black sesame seeds. Another fun sounding entree is “Chicken” Fried Duck Breast ($34) with spring legumes, strawberry & fennel compote, basil dust, crispy duck skin breading, and spicy chili honey. The latter – chili honey – is something I’ve noticed has become quite a culinary craze of late; I seem to see it everywhere, drizzled on everything.
My carnivorous stepson, predictably, ordered the 10-oz N.Y. Strip Steak ($57) at Oquirrh, which was served with “French Onion” jus, cippolinis, greens and cheesy sourdough croutons. A discriminating meat lover, he was very happy with his entree choice.
Meanwhile, I can rarely pass up bone marrow when I see it on a restaurant menu, so I opted for Oquirrh’s Beer Steamed Mussels ($23), which was a dozen or so black mussels steamed in Squatters Chasing Tail Ale with a big, beautiful marrow-filled beef bone and grilled toast points. That’s an example of the sort of elevated comfort food that Drew Fuller and his team does so well.
For dessert, Oquirrh proudly serves what might just be the world’s best ice cream from Alexa Norlin’s Normal Ice Cream company. The Choco Taco ($9) is a beautiful thing – a house-made waffle taco with horchata ice cream, dark chocolate dip and chocolate pearls. The kitchen also sent us out a killer dessert that involved rice puffs. Unfortunately, we’d gotten far enough into our wine that I don’t recall the details of that dish except that we all loved it.
Oquirrh is an all-too-rare restaurant that seems to get everything right and is firing on all cylinders at present. If you haven’t been there yet, it is time to visit this culinary gem. If you have, then you already know what I’m talking about.
Culinary quote of the week: “Since Eve ate apples, much depends on dinner.” – Lord Byron
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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.