Fenice Mediterranean Bistro

Right before the pandemic began, Jeff and Lisa Ward (owners of Silverstar Café in Park City signed a lease on the small restaurant space formerly occupied by Fireside on Regent, just next to the Eccles Theater and a stone’s throw from Prettybird Salt Lake.

To be honest, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to even think about opening a restaurant right as talk of remote work and quarantining started to infiltrate our daily conversations. But for the Wards, it gave them a bit of a breather; a chance to reset and really think things through and consider how (and what) they wanted their first venture into Salt Lake dining to be.

Ant their thoughtful approach shows in every detail at Fenice Mediterranean Bistro (126 S Regent Street). The layout and design of the space keeps things intimate and warm (no doubt helped by the piping hot pizza oven located in the corner of the open kitchen). I was invited by the restaurant to stop by and check out some dishes.

The menu reflect the Mediterranean vibes well, with various small plates such as roasted olives with burrata, polenta with balsamic-roasted potatoes (really tasty), and patatas bravos.

For pasta, I tried the bolognese bianca, which was absolutely rich, creamy, and delicious. Exactly what you would expect from a well-executed bolognese. Other dishes that caught my eye that I didn’t get a chance to try were the mushroom risotto, the osso bucco, whole roasted branzino, and a New York steak au poivre. Inquiries to other diners who had those dishes were met with strong, favorable reviews. The pizzas also looked delicious.

Prices are reasonable considering the level of execution of the dishes as well as the downtown location, with the mains ranging from around $25-$30, pizzas $18, and pasta dishes $17-$22.

For the adult beverage side of things, I will as always graciously bow out of offering any opinions other than saying that the restaurant features a full cocktail menu and what appears to me to be a quite substantial selection of wines and beers. I will note that due to their current liquor license, you must be 21 or older to dine at Fenice.

The restaurant is currently open for dinnerTuesday through Saturday from 5pm-9:30pm, and their websites states they are closed Mondays and Tuesdays. No mention of Sundays so be sure to check with them prior to hoofing it down there. Dinner only for now, but they anticipate they will expand into brunch and lunch soon.

Patatas Bravas
Bolognese

Ginger Street

 

Let’s get a few things established right off the bat.

  1. There is a disco ball, posters of Saved by The Bell, and a DJ station at Ginger Street
  2. There is a lot of neon
  3. The servers wear fanny packs
  4. This is not a place I will take my mother in law, who thinks the Red Iguana experience is a bit “out there”
  5. The food in incredible

In the food blogger/writer world these days, unfortunately the trend is that it’s more about speed and less about quality. She or he with the first review rules the world. I tend to shy away from that approach. Not for any reason other than I don’t like opening week crowds and I like to give the front and back of the house a little time to settle in. But Melissa and I found ourselves with an extra hour or two after a wedding reception sans kids, so we decided to pop over to Ginger Street for a quick second lunch to see what all of the fuss is about. 

The first tip: the entrance is on the 3rd South side of the building. We tried entering from the porch, but the door was locked. Then we walked along State Street. No dice. Then we found the hard-to-miss pink “red carpet” that welcomes you to the large space with tall ceilings and plenty of room. You’re greeted by a host or hostess and given a menu, and you place your initial order with them. Once paid, they then will give you a number and help you choose a table. Ours happened to be made out of an old bowling alley lane. I say “initial” order, because the intent of Ginger Street is that this is “hawker style.” Hawker stalls are prevalent in Singapore, and the idea of them is sort of like a food court where you order from the various vendors and then sit down and enjoy the varying dishes. A bit of a conundrum at Ginger Street, since there’s only one purveyor, so I’m not totally convinced they really get what hawker stalls are about. But it does follow along the hawker model in that the intent is that you order numerous different plates of dishes to share (or not) throughout your stay. I wasn’t a huge fan of feeling the pressure of walking in and feeling like you had to make a quick decision since there’s a line of people behind you, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one that feels that way. I’d much rather be able to sit down and settle in before deciding on what I want to eat. Maybe their intent is to help turn tables by eliminating that initial 10 minute “settling in” period. I don’t know. I’m curious to know if they stick with that approach or not. I’m hopeful they don’t.

Even at 2 pm, the dining room was steadily busy. Michael McHenry, one of the owners of Ginger Street, mentioned that within the first day or two of them opening, they had a line of 140 people waiting for lunch. I’d say there’s a bit of hype with this one. And after our meal, I’d say the hype is very well justified.

Varying textures are prevalent throughout your experience at Ginger Street. Textures in music (yes, they have a DJ booth and a disco ball), décor (they have posters featuring Saved By The Bell and pillows with a distinct Indian flair), and tastes. I have a feeling that this spot will be a bit of a chameleon as the day and week progresses. Downtown white collar workers will find it suited well for a quick lunch, but as the night progresses and the bar crowd emerges, I have a hunch that this place will get a bit crazy. In a good way. But maybe not a 40-year-old-with-two-kids-in-diapers good way. I’ll likely stick to lunchtime or early dinner.

Ginger Street is in a good location, centrally located between the Main Street bar scene, Gallivan, and Broadway theater. They are also in the late stages of opening a walk-up dessert and small bites window, where you will be able to order a quick bowl of rotating soft serve flavors, ice cream sandwiches, and on late nights during the weekend, small hot bites of pork buns and other items. The window is expected to open in the next two weeks. I find it interesting that two similar concepts (walk-up Asian-inspired food) are launching at nearly the exact same time, within a block of each other. Ginger Street’s window, and Ryan Lowder’s latest idea: a walk-up window named @hotbunsnfun on the side of Copper Common, where you can get noodle dishes as well as various steamed buns.

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Future Dessert and Hot Bites Walk-Up Window

We ordered a starter of pork dumplings, perfectly cooked and filled with napa cabbage, garlic chive, and accompanied by a very nice chili soy sauce. The Crispy Fish Cha Ca La Vong was a standout dish: pieces of white fish breaded in their version of a panko coating with a hint of citrus, laid on a bed of cold rice vermicelli, peanuts, scallion, and topped by a hearty helping of dill. The fish was accompanied by the best sauce I’ve had in a while: a pineapple nam prik, laced with bird’s eye chili for a bit of heat. This dish had sweet, sour, warm, cold, crunchy, soft. Chef Tyler Stokes understands textures and contrasts.

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Ginger Noodles

The Ginger Noodles dish was perhaps my favorite dish. It’s a simple dish, and screams “humble,” but it was so good in so many ways. Ramen noodles are accompanied with a salty scallion relish as wells as pickled cucumbers and sauteed baby spinach and topped with peanuts. The dish had great balance and the noodles were perfectly cooked. Just an all-around great dish, and a bargain at $13. 

At this point in our lunch I was spotted by Ginger Street co-owner Michael McHenry. McHenry, who has formerly worked at Blue Lemon, cofounded Even Stevens sandwiches, and recently took over Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, has a track record of establishing unique concepts backed by solid operations and excellent service. After speaking with him, you begin to understand how each of his concepts are able to execute his vision so well, and each one so uniquely. He gets it, and is passionate about bringing a new type of culinary experience to Salt Lake. McHenry sent out a few other dishes for us to try. The steamed Snake River Farms pork belly buns were pillowy soft, and the hoisin, pickled cucumbers, and scallions provided a nice counter balance to the rich pork. 

 

The crispy duck rolls were a hit. Tender duck is wrapped up and fried, then wrapped with Thai basil and finally an outer casing of rice paper to provide the perfect contrast of crunchy and soft. Wrapping the basil outside of the cooked portion of the roll allows the basil to really shine through and retain its texture and punch. 

The green curry has the right amount of spice (if you’re more brave than I with spice, get the red curry). The sauce features charred eggplant, cauliflower, red bell pepper and basil. Again, a steal at $10. Other items I can’t wait to come back and try include the fried spicy chicken sandwich and the caramelized lemongrass shrimp. 

There is an extensive drink menu, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. We had the Naam Manao, a fresh-squeezed Thai limeade that was tart and punchy in all of the right ways. Desserts are provided by Jane Anne, formerly of Vinto, Stanza, and Normal Ice Cream. Ginger Street features a rotating menu of soft serve flavors, and we tried the curry vanilla, which was rich and delicious, and had just the right amount of curry flavor to get the point across but not make you feel weird about eating curry for dessert. An ice cream sandwich with a cocoa almond crust and passionfruit ice cream, as well as a rich “G Bar” with a gingersnap crust, were both top-notch delicious. 

I really like Ginger Street. I like that they’re trying something different that what we’re used to. They’re bringing a level of quirkiness and character that the city doesn’t have enough of. But it’s not a gimmick, either. They’re backing this innovation up with a solid menu and excellent execution from the kitchen. I look forward to seeing what they accomplish, and am optimistic that they’ll do very well.

Alamexo Cantina Closing Its Doors

After 18 months, Alamexo Cantina, the sister project of Matt Lake’s Alamexo downtown, is shutting its doors. I am personally very sad about this, since I admire Matt’s passion to create a neighborhood gathering place and his devotion to innovative dishes, and scratch cooking using only the best ingredients. Sadly, it seemed like the Cantina could never gain the traction necessary to succeed.

Their announcement, posted to Instagram, says in part: “With the months of upcoming construction that will surround our restaurant and the tight margin that all restauranteurs operate on, we can no longer continue on in this space. We have made every accommodation to insure the jobs of our staff members, who are like family, and they will all be joining us at our location on 268 South State.”

RIP, Alamexo Cantina.

 

SLC Eatery

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There’s something really cool happening in an old stucco’d building at 10th South and Main Street. The building that houses newly-opened SLC Eatery was formerly a rock shop. Apparently you could go in and buy rocks of all shapes and sizes, in varying colors, and from pretty basic to very fancy. Who knew.

The building is situated right between a motel and a used car dealership, in a (what should I call it) unique part of town for a restaurant. The area is slowly filling in with dining and drinking options, such as Proper Burger, Tinwell, and Fisher Brewery, but there is a way to go before this area is thought of as a culinary stronghold in SLC. At the restaurant there isn’t much in the way of parking (just plan to park on the street) and the restaurant’s website isn’t even done yet. Yet this quirky little spot has managed to generate more buzz in the few short weeks it’s been open that just about any other restaurant in my recent memory. And for good reason, because co-chefs and business partners Paul Chamberlain and Logan Crew are putting out some of the most unique, boundary-pushing food that we’ve seen in the city since the going-away of Forage. And did I mention they have a dim sum cart?

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Santo Tacos

Santo Tacos sits in a nondescript building with strip-mall vibes. It’s in an odd part of town: north of the fair park, and right off the 1000 North exit of I-15. If you’re not looking for it, you’d likely miss it, camouflaged in with the barber shop, smoke shop, and quick stop convenience store.

The interior is light and bright, and is set up quick-service style. Signs point diners to the various locations along the line to order (“tacos order here,” “nachos order here,” etc.). The staff is busy, grilling various meats and building orders. Their menu states “tortillas recien hechas” (fresh-made tortillas), and that isn’t just lip-service: one employee stays busy full-time making the masa, putting it into the tortilla press, and bagging up for service.

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Hearth and Hill Restaurant

hearth and hill park city

Tucked away towards the back of a Kimball Junction shopping area, between the Best Buy and Jupiter Lanes bowling alley, you will find the newly-opened Hearth and Hill restaurant. This smartly-designed restaurant seeks to be a local-centric, community-focused restaurant. A place where you would be comfortable hanging with your friends, go on a first date, or hang out with your grandparents. A lot of time, attention, and money was spent on the interior of the restaurant, which I would call industrial-chic. Large-pane windows showcase the bright white kitchen—kind of a different take on the open kitchen concept—and I like it. Make sure you spend some time at the gorgeous bar, and enjoy a cocktail or mocktail as you pre-game dinner. During the warmer months, live music will be featured on their large patio. 

The bar at Hearth and Hill restaurant in Park City, Utah

Brooks Kirchheimer, proprietor of Hearth and Hill, has restaurants in his blood. As a child his very first Christmas present he recalls asking Santa for was a cash register, and he would routinely drive his sisters crazy asking them to “play restaurant” with him (his restaurant’s name was Sharky’s). 

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Slapfish coming to Utah

I generally limit my coverage of chains and franchises, but when a good one pops up on my radar, I’m glad to toot their horn.

Slapfish started as a food truck serving fresh, sustainable seafood dishes such as traditional fish tacos and fish and chips to more adventurous items like chowder fries, ceviche, and lobster taquitos. Not gonna lie, looking at their photos is making me wish they were opening a bit closer to downtown, but I think I’ll make the drive. I’m excited to try out their version of the lobster roll.

“With our menu of seasonally rotating, gourmet dishes in a relaxed setting, guests experience the quality of fine dining with the cost and convenience of faster food. Also setting us apart is the fact that we only serve the freshest fish and shellfish sourced from responsible suppliers of seafood.” Chef Andrew Gruel

Slapfish intends to open up to eight locations in Utah. Grand Opening events will happen on March 10th and 11th in their Lehi location.

Slapfish
3360 N Frontage Road
Lehi

Christmas and New Year’s Specials

The holidays are well upon us, and many local restaurants are opening up for Christmas and New Years dining.

Cafe Niche

Christmas Eve: Open from 8am to 9pm, and will be serving special dishes including wild mushroom bisque, shrimp cocktail, and Black Forest cake.

New Years: Cafe Niche will offer a special New Years Eve dining special from 5-10pm. Cost is $60 per person. Reservations are a must, and can be made by calling the restaurant (801) 433-3380. The restaurant will also be open on New Years day at 8am.

Kyoto

Kyoto will be serving their regular menu, with adjusted hours. Christmas Eve: 11-2pm and 5-9pm. Christmas Day: closed. December 26: regular hours. New Years Eve: 11am-2pm, 5-9pm. New Years: closed for lunch and open for dinner 5-10pm.

Stanza

Stanza will be open Christmas Eve from 5-9pm, with specials in addition to the regular menu, and will be closed all day on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Specials on Christmas Eve include veal cannelloni, wagyu bavette, and buche de noel for dessert.

The restaurant will also offer a New Year’s Eve special four course menu for $65, featuring oysters, roasted pumpkin soup, lobster farfalle, branzino, Mary’s chicken, and cannoli (among many other options). Call the restaurant for reservations at (801) 746-4441.

Current Fish & Oyster

current-oysters
Photo courtesy Current

The restaurant will be open for lunch a dinner on Christmas Eve, closing at 8pm. The restaurant will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Chef Phelix Gardner is featuring customer favorites and many holiday specials for the restaurant’s New Year’s Eve celebration. The four course menu is available beginning at 4pm on December 31st. Options include oyster brie soup, grilled calamari, banana prawn videos, roasted beef loin, caramelized organic salmon, and a chocolate peanut cremeux, among other options. Guests can also choose to add a seafood tower with mussel shooters, poached lobster, oysters, shrimp, and crab legs.

Call (801) 326-3474 for reservations.

Oasis Cafe

Oasis will be open from 8am until 3pm on Christmas Eve, offering their regular brunch menu. The restaurant will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The restaurant is offering a special four course prix fixe menu beginning at 5pm on New Years Eve. Offerings will include pan seared scallop, shrimp bisque, pan roasted halibut, prime rib, and dark chocolate cheesecake, among other options.

Cost is $45. Reservations are highly suggested. (801) 322-0404.

Finca

Finca has created a six course tasting menu for New Year’s Eve. Per Spaniard tradition, each dish will incorporate grapes in some way. Each course is also paired with an optional wine pairing as well.

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Pago

Pago is offering a New Year’s Eve tasting menu, plus wine pairings, from 5-9pm. Price is $70 for the menu, plus $38 for the optional wine pairings. Some menu items include hamachi crude, sweet potato gnocchi, venison, diver scallops, and bread pudding. Call the restaurant at (801) 532-0777 for reservations.

pago

HSL

HSL still has availability for their four-course prix fixe meal on Christmas Eve. Price is $65 per person, and features a selection of panna cotta, charred leek soup, ribeye steak, sea bass, chestnut risotto, and bouche de noel, among other choices. Call HSL at (801) 539-9999.

Laziz Kitchen

Laziz is offering a “New Year’s Eve Supper,” with two seating options: one at 7:30pm and one at 8:30pm. The menu is a four course prix fixe menu, including stuffed grape leaves, hummus, fennel salad, fish tajen, Zaatar crusted chicken, baklava bites, and assorted beverages (alcohol extra, but you can bring your own if you wish). Price is $70 per person, and must be paid for in advance by calling the restaurant at (801) 441-1228. More info on Facebook.

Avenues Bistro on Third

Avenues Bistro will host two seatings: one at 5pm and one at 7pm. The bistro will be showcasing the work of the newly-returned chef, Adam Findlay. This is a four-course meal featuring a cream of sunchoke bisque, watercress salad, ricotta gnocchi, wagyu beef, salmon, and dessert. No price was posted, but call (801) 831-5409 to inquire and make reservations.

East Liberty Tap House

East Liberty is still accepting reservations for New Year’s Eve, featuring a “tap takeover” by Red Rock Brewing. There will be other drink and food specials as well. Call them at (801) 441-2845.

Laziz Kitchen

Laziz Kitchen opened this week. The restaurant, located just off 9th South on Jefferson (next to Jade Market), is the next culinary step for Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen, the brains behind the popular Laziz Foods (specializing in hummus, muhammara, and toum spreads). Moudi and Derek have always strived to be active participants in their communities. Their new Middle Eastern-focused restaurant is their next step to further their community involvement.

Over the years we’ve found ourselves in a unique position of bridging our passion for food with community engagement. Whether it’s advocating for social justice, or our involvement in local political office, or to early mornings with our neighbors at the farmers market, we’re driven by our love for the community. We’ve knocked on doors, talked to strangers, and told our story, and now we invite you into our kitchen – to gather around our table. We hope you feel at home. -Moudi and Derek

The space itself is beautiful. As a side note, I am so thrilled with all of the new restaurants popping up that understand the importance of a cohesive dining experience: atmosphere, service, and food. You need all three, and it seems like many of the newcomers get it.

Back to the space. Nice and open, but not too loud. Beautiful copper chairs provide nice contrast to the white, gold, and green found throughout the space. Servers bustle about in beautiful green aprons. Upon entering, you will be greeted by a small area dedicated to selling middle eastern products as well as some products from our very own local producers. Their small marketplace offers specialty olive oils from the West Bank, unique spice blends such as zaatar, and orange blossom water.

They were busy, but not overwhelmed. Our server was very friendly and very happy to explain different menu items to us.

After seeing some photos online, I knew we had to try the fried cauliflower florets, which arrived perfectly golden and cooked just right. The cauliflower was accompanied by a tahini dressing topped with parsley, which could have used a bit more punch. Lemon juice and maybe a hit of salt would have helped boost it up enough to stand up to the cauliflower. I ended up dipping the cauliflower in some toum (an absolutely wonderful garlic sauce), and it seemed a better match.

Laziz offers many different small plate/appetizer options, including hummus (of course), Baba Ghannouj (eggplant), grilled Halloumi cheese, fries, and an olive and pickle plate, among many other dishes.

Entrees range from hummus wraps to Man’Oushe Zaatar, a stone fired flatbread stuffed with zaatar, olive oil, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and mint.

My entree of Shish Tawook ($11) was a very nice portion of chicken, rice, and a basic (and forgettable) tomato, cucumber, and lettuce salad. The chicken was perhaps the best cooked chicken I have ever had–perfectly moist, which just the right amount of char and flavor. The rice was cooked well, but needed something else along with it to make it not so one dimensional. The toum, once again, saved the day. You can order the Shish Tawook as a sandwich as well ($10) if you aren’t interested in the rice and salad. I would go that route next time.

A kafta wrap (beef and parsley skewers with onions, tomatoes, pickles and hummus) also found itself lacking a bit in flavor. When mentioned, the server quickly went and consulted with the kitchen, and brought out a sauce that rounded out the dish very nicely. I’m excited to return to try their Clifford Farm Egg wrap, the Pepper Tajen, as well as some delicious desserts.

Laziz is a fantastic addition to the SLC dining scene. Derek and Moudi have always created deliciously vibrant and flavorful spreads and dips which have been so very popular, and I think with a bit of time, that same focus on bright, contrasting flavors found in their muhammara, for example, will make their way into the dishes offered at Laziz Kitchen as well.

Laziz Kitchen
Tuesday through Friday 8am-6pm
Saturday through Sunday 9am-4pm
912 South Jefferson Street, Salt Lake City
(801) 441-1228

Table X Opens Today (11/2/16)

Table X, a chef-owned and operated restaurant, opens its doors on Wednesday, November 2nd. Three chefs, Mike Blocher, Nick Fahs, and David Barboza have been working on the concept for two years to build a space they could call their own.

The restaurant, located at 1457 E 3350 S, in the Brickyard neighborhood, is located in a 1930’s brick storehouse and cheese factory. The three chefs aim to offer a menu that is top-shelf, but missing all of the pretense typically associated with “fine dining.”

We want to present the highest caliber of … food, wine, and service in the most casual and least pretentious environment possible. -Nick Fahs

Come as you are, but you will receive something that is totally unexpected; something that may change your philosophy on the food we eat. -Mike Blocher

We’d like it to be warm and inviting. Like you’re coming into our home and we’re inviting you back time and time again. -David Barboza

The restaurant is open Wednesdays through Sundays for dinner only. Reservations can be made at their website. They have documented their journey through a series of videos, which can be viewed here.