Thursday, September 30, 2010

Forage in Salt Lake City

I heard about Forage (from LadyK, I think) way back and sort of forgot about it. Warned about the 2-4 hour dining experience, I knew dragging hubby (possible hissy-fit, tasting menus not his gig, i.e., Eleven Madison Park, my fave btw) would be no fun at all. Luckily, Rayna and Ruth brilliantly suggested a girls dinner night, no hubbies :)
FORAGE, 370 E 900 S Salt Lake City, Utah 84111, 801-708-7834
This restaurant is impossible to find, almost invisible from the street, so look closely at the house numbers. Inside the decor is white, minimalistic chic and super zen with mostly bare walls. We sat down just before 7:30pm and had no choice but to do the 3-course dinner that would take 2-3 hours (vs the 4 hour tasting menu). Time is of the essence!

Three courses $49 per person, wine paring $31
Tasting menu $89 per person, wine paring $49
Vegetarian tasting menu $71 per person

Amuse-bouche #1:  fried tomato garlic croquette.  This single bite let out an in-mouth explosion of garlicky tomato juice - clever, warm, tart and tangy. Nice start!
Amuse-bouche #2:  egg filled with custard.  This eggshell display set the tone for the evening - unusual and earthy, in flavor palate and color palette. Sweet and desserty, creamy and flan-like, and layered in many textures. We used a tiny spoon to take careful tiny bites.
Drinks:  water and custom barley tea.  Since we (moms on a school night) were already fading and it wasn't even 8pm yet, we declined the wine pairing. The chefs concocted a rich hearty barley tea that was fabulous.
Amuse-bouche #3:  canisters containing aromatic seasonal fruit, veggies and yogurt (?).  I do respect the attempt at creativity (and innovation), but when these heavy-duty containers arrived in front of us, it was hard (for me) to disassociate the all too familiar air-tight glass canisters with formaldahyde and diaphonized specimens (well, labs...).
When we unlatched, a burst of aromatic fruity fragrance filled the table (nothing resembling methanal at all!). The contents were all bite-size pieces of earth-tone earthiness.
Amuse-bouche #4:  bread, soft butter and fingerbowl of salt.  Again, more earth tones... 
First course:  scallop sashimi, shaved matsutake mushrooms, quail egg "sunnyside up", matsutake dashi, puffed rice.  The broth was poured tableside. Beautiful and... earthy. A sunny-up yolk brightens up anything. Both Rs ordered and liked this.
First course:  vegetable garden, vegetables and herbs of the season.  I was relieved to finally see colors when the server came out with this perfectly picturesque arrangement of colorful garden bites. The "dirt," looking exactly like crushed Oreos, actually tasted like, um, dirt. The veggies were bitter, sweet, undercooked and positioned on top of potato puree (?). The "fallen leaves" were too minty and clashed with the, um, "dirt." Pretty.
Second course:  hamachi cooked over charcoal, warm tomatoes, gypsy peppers, toasted buckwheat.  Delicately arranged, similar look to my garden-dirt dish with the minty leaves. Fresh-looking and light. Rs both ordered the fish and liked it very much.
Second course:  painted hills rib eye, white chanterelles, braised beet greens, roasted cauliflower, natural jus I only ordered this because I couldn't let our table get away with having 3 of the same fish dishes (neither Rs ate meat and the 3rd choice was pork). Everything about this rib eye was fabulous (and I rarely order steaks). The mushrooms were intensely flavorful, beet greens were unique and tasty, meat so tender, medium rare (and such a generous portion!). I would absolutely order this again!
Supplement of artisan cheese $9.  I was surprised by the sloppy presentation. The cheeses were really excellent and made up for the bad taste in plating. The wooden tray was huge and took up one third of our table!
Palate cleanser (freebie):  italian ice style, a glop of yogurt (?), granola.  Rayna didn't like the white stuff on top but I did. The ice cold sorbet and crunchy granola were refreshing. I was too visually distracted to fully appreciate this. (I obsessed over the shape, color and size of the bowl.)
Dessert #1:  warm elberta peach, vanilla and barley porridge, elderflower.  These colors were identical to the palate cleanser sorbet (tan, colorless). Foam... which I never got into ever liking or appreciating. (I know foam was once ground-breaking, but for me... if it looks like soapy suds, it tastes like soapy suds... my problem, not yours!) Rayna liked it very much, perhaps even loved it! I think Ruth did too.
Dessert #2:  amano guayas chocolate, toasted walnut ice-cream, smoked blackberry, walnut dust.  This "dust" was delicious and transformed into an interesting paste in my mouth. Ruth loved it, the dust. Anything ice-cream is delicious. Very unusual plating?
Dessert #3:  yogurt sponge cake, dark malt cookie, pear and chamomile.  Despite looking like a faux-paint sponge or a pumice rock, I really enjoyed this. Cake was beautifully fluffy and the cookie was flaky and not too sweet.
Final treats with the bill:  macarons.  Are you thinking mini collectible Japanese erasers like I am? Little delish hamburger-looking macarons with a nutella-like (?) smear, served on a slab of slate.
Good-bye gift:  sort of cake with sugar bits.  As we walked out the door, our server ran out to give us our little gift bag containing a sort of coffee cake. Unfortunately a bummer! Way too sweet, too sticky and mushy, and reminded me of stale processed coffee cake from Starbucks :(
I would definitely go back for the tasting menu and wine pairing. I totally recommend this restaurant if you want an adventurous, not-so-usual dinner out and you want to do it in Salt Lake City. For a restaurant of this ilk, the pricing was a bargain and the vibe was down to earth, hip and creative without being pretentious (as I was dreading and expecting it to be!). The food was very good!

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