Well, it took me a while to get there. But well worth the wait was a visit to Urban Hill restaurant, which opened back in December on the new, $200 million Post District development that’s revitalizing the gone-to-seed Granary District. In December, Park City’s family-owned restaurant group Leave Room for Dessert Eateries (LRFDE) launched Urban Hill, an eye-popping eatery and bar that would be right at home in any of the world’s glitzy urban centers.
LRFDE Co-owner Brooks Kirchheimer and his talented team previously opened the wildly popular Hearth and Hill in Park City, and then Hill’s Kitchen cafe and catering. About LRFDE’s foray into SLC with Urban Hill, Kirchheimer said, “Salt Lake is one of the country’s most vibrant, fast-growing cities, and we’re eager to provide a fun, energetic gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. As a homegrown group, we’re excited to bring the community an upscale hospitality experience that blends local sourcing with traditional and innovative dishes and beverages. We want to help SLC stake its claim as a serious culinary city, and for the Granary District to join the ranks of Denver’s RiNo and Chicago’s Fulton Market as a major hub for culture and commerce.” Mission accomplished, I would say.
LRFDE Director of Operations Ryan Mickelson told me that they fought long and hard to get Denver-based Semple Brown for the decor and design of Urban Hill, which is absolutely stunning. Initially, Semple Brown had too much on its plate to take on the Urban Hill project, but eventually LRFDE wore them down, and the result is one of the most gorgeous restaurants in any city, not just Salt Lake City.
Urban Hill is upscale and sophisticated in style, yet warm and inviting with lots of wood, a 190-seat dining room, an open kitchen, two private dining rooms including one with a soapstone-clad fireplace, 1,500 square foot patio, a quartzite-topped bar area, and commissioned paintings by local artist Samantha daSilva.
Heading up the kitchen team at Urban Hill is Executive Chef Nick Zocco, formerly of SW Steakhouse at Wynn Las Vegas. Locally, I enjoyed his cuisine at Tupelo Park City and Afterword in Heber. Chef Zocco’s menu features an array of fresh seafood dishes, locally-raised steaks and game, and raw bar items such as oysters, shrimp cocktail, and Maine lobster salad. My wife and I licked the killer Crudo ($22) plate clean – a delightful dish of sushi-grade raw hiramasa slices served ceviche-style, bathed in a scrumptious and tangy tangerine aquachile “broth” with salted cucumber, jalapeño, furikake, microgreens and toasted sesame seeds. It’s a dish that really pops – both on the plate and the palate.
As at Park City’s Hearth and Hill, Urban Hill’s menu is an eclectic one, with starters ranging from chorizo croquetas ($17) and coal-roasted beets ($16), to crispy calamari ($22) and dill-seasoned latkes ($19). We really enjoyed sharing the Crispy Fried Tofu ($22) with lettuce leaves and vibrant mint and Thai basil flavors, plus cucumber, pickled red onion, crispy shallots, sticky rice, and lemongrass vinaigrette. There’s a lot going on in that appetizer, and it’s all good.
There are a couple of interesting pasta-based starters on the Urban Hill menu, as well. Spring Potato Gnocchi ($20) comes with English peas, artichoke, maitake mushrooms, and Pecorino-Romano cheese. But the appetizer I really enjoyed was one that brought together two ingredients that you normally won’t find on the same plate: seafood and salami. I love the creativity and fullness of flavor behind Chef Zocco’s Peekytoe Crab Ravioli ($25), which combines delicate Blue Hill Bay crab-stuffed ravioli in vodka sauce with fennel pollen and crispy, tart Calabrese on top. It’s a dandy dish.
One of the centerpieces of Urban Hill is its curated, 2,400 bottle wine room and wine selection featuring Old and New World wines in every imaginable price range, from Albariño to Zinfandel.
I love being able to talk with Urban Hill Sommelier and Beverage Manager Bijan Ghiai and pick his brain. His wine expertise is vast and he’s a terrific asset to guests looking for vinological recommendations, advice, and ideas.
Vegetarians dining at Urban Hill – as well as anyone else who loves squash – might opt for the Fire-Roasted Squash ($29) entree with za’atar hummus, green chile honey, rosemary-candied pecans, pomegranate, and puffed grains. Seafood lovers will be tempted by the Wild-Caught Halibut ($52) with asparagus, baby carrots, pea coulis, radish salsa, preserved lemon demi-glace and caviar. My wife loved her Pacifico Striped Bass ($38) entree – a skin-on, beautifully cooked striped bass filet placed atop a bed of Carolina Gold rice, scallion yuca, achiote, cashew, and pickled onion with pineapple salsa on top.
From top to bottom, service at Urban Hill is top-notch. Servers, managers like Jessica Johns, bussers, bartenders, et al are super-informed and knowledgeable about the restaurant’s extensive food and beverage selections, but also extremely professional, polished and friendly. Our dinnertime server, Cameron Johnson, was a perfect example of restaurant service at its best.
Meat dishes dominate the selection of entrees at Urban Hill and include a Creekstone Farms Filet ($62), Lamb Porterhouse ($60), Bison Ribeye ($70), Pork Chop Milanese ($40), and 20-oz. Creekstone Farms Dry-Aged Ribeye ($110), all of which come with complementary sides. But I found Chef Zocco’’s Roasted Chicken entree ($36) to be especially tempting and it turned out to be even better than it looked on paper. The half-roasted, skin-on chicken was cooked to perfection and served with Moroccan couscous, fava beans, sauteed farm greens, harissa, and natural jus which was poured onto the chicken by our server, Cameron, at the table. It was a delightful dish and I loved seeing fava beans on a restaurant menu, which is something all too rare.
I asked our Sommelier, Bijan Ghiai for a suggestion of something to sip alongside our entrees and he recommended a wine I’d never encountered before: Domaine Christophe Mittnacht Terres d’etoiles Gyotaku. The was a beautiful biodynamic Asatian white wine, a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Muscat that perfectly suited both my chicken entree and Faith’s striped bass.
There is absolutely no dessert that I love more than banana cream pie. So, when I saw Banana Cream Pie ($12) with salted caramel and chocolate chantilly on Executive Pastry Chef Chris Straughan’s dessert menu, I was sold. It was as delicious as I’d expected – an individually-sized pie big enough to be shared, although I admit devouring most of it myself. Additional Urban Hill desserts include Chocolate Souffle ($13), Cheesecake ($11), an Ice Cream Trio ($9), and Affogato ($9). There’s also a selection of sweet and fortified wines to enjoy on the dessert menu, including Sauternes, Tawny Port, Madeira, Tawny Colheita, and Amontillado Sherry.
As I mentioned, for reasons I can’t quite fathom it took me nearly six months after it opened for me to finally check out Urban Hill. But I’m sure glad I did because everything about this newish restaurant is excellent, from the attentive service and spectacular ambiance, to the exceptional wine selection and Chef Zocco’s killer cuisine. Six months in, Urban Hill is hitting all the right notes and firing on all cylinders bringing vibrant, vital cuisine to SLC’s Post District.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week: “After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” – Oscar Wilde