Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Not On Our Radar Screen

Our Salt Lake City plans didn’t include eating two meals at the Garden Restaurant, but circumstances sometimes dictate when and where one eats lunch.

Our spur of the moment decision to attend two organ concerts in one day left us looking for a place for a quick lunch. Our first choice was the Nauvoo Café, a semi-fast food sandwich restaurant on the first floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. But a gigantic bus tour arrived just before we did and another change of plans was called for. It was upstairs to The Garden.

Located on the tenth floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, The Garden Restaurant has stunning views of Temple Square and downtown Salt Lake City. The room truly resembles a garden with its retractable roof (the weather that day mandated the roof remain closed), floor to ceiling windows, red floor tiles, white columns, green plants, and pergola effect running around two sides of the room. The décor was part elegant and part casual.

The lunch menu is a mix of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pastas, and more formal entrees. Salads include the classic Cobb and Spinach salads, plus a Raspberry Salad (mixed greens tossed with raspberry vinaigrette and topped with oven-roasted turkey, raspberries, sugar roasted walnuts, sweet red onions, Fuji apples, and crumbled feta cheese), and an Oriental Pasta Salad (oven-roasted turkey, crisp garden greens tossed with bean sprouts, jícama, carrots, snow peas, and mandarin oranges in a honey-ginger-soy dressing and topped with capellini pasta, toasted cashews, and crisp wontons).

If you wanted pasta, you could choose: ravioli filled with parmesan, Romano, and ricotta cheeses and tossed with a Bolognese meat sauce and topped with grated asiago cheese and a drizzle of balsamic reduction; fettuccine with grilled chicken, prosciutto, sautéed mushrooms, and diced tomatoes tossed in a creamy roasted garlic-Alfredo sauce; lasagna layered with artichoke hearts, caramelized onions, fresh spinach, tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, topped with a blend of Italian cheeses, and served with vegetarian tomato basil sauce or a Bolognese meat sauce; or penne pasta with chicken sautéed with wild boar sausage, caramelized onions and sweet peppers tossed with a Bolognese meat
sauce.

The day was chilly, overcast, and threatening rain, so pasta sounded good to us both. Chuck’s choice was the penne (he has developed this recent fondness for penne), and mine was the lasagna with vegetarian sauce. His penne came in a chunky tomato sauce that absorbed great flavor from the wild boar sausage (this tasted like a smoked beef sausage, but with more pepper and with a slightly sweet gamey flavor). I thought that the pasta was a little overcooked, but this was still a delicious bowl of pasta.

My lasagna was also tasty and the pasta layers sandwiched artichokes, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes. The tomato basil sauce was light, and over the lasagna and sauce were whole fried basil leaves. This portion was so large that a third returned home with me and was eaten that night for supper.

We went away highly satisfied, but without intentions to return. But a few days later we found ourselves back at Temple Square with lunch rapidly approaching. Having enjoyed our lunch a few days earlier, back to The Garden we went.

This time, Chuck went to the sandwich part of the menu where his choices included: a shrimp and crab salad topped with alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, and avocado served on a croissant with pasta salad and chips; the beef dipper with thinly sliced sirloin steak and provolone cheese topped with caramelized onions and sweet peppers and served on a hoagie bun with a side of French onion au jus and garden fries; the vegetable sandwich alfalfa sprouts, cucumbers, avocado, Swiss cheese, red leaf lettuce, tomato, sweet red onion, and roasted red pepper hummus on toasted honey wheat bread and served with fruit salad and chips; and an Italian Panini with grilled chicken, pepperoni, and ham with provolone cheese, caramelized onions, sweet peppers, and sundried tomato aioli on sourdough bread and served with pasta salad and chips.

Chuck chose to start his lunch with the soup of the day – the Banana Bisque. Yes, you read that right. This was a chilled, but not ice cold, soup that tasted just as our server described – “banana bread in a bowl.” It was lightly seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg and contained pieces of chopped walnut. Really intriguing, but a cup serving was just enough. A full bowl would have been too much.

For his lunch he chose the beef dipper (French dip). The menu didn’t lie when it described the meat as thinly sliced which made it ultra tender. The fried onions and peppers added tons of flavor and meshed perfectly with the onion au jus. And the roll was perfect for the sandwich. Light enough to soak up the au jus, but not so light that it fell apart. The hand-cut seasoned fries were also first rate.

At our earlier lunch, I was interested in the Oriental Pasta Salad, but was scared away by the presence of Mandarin oranges (I am very allergic to oranges.). But the attraction was still there. So I asked our server, being as polite as I could and explaining my orange allergy, if the salads were pre-made and sitting in the kitchen. (I didn’t want someone picking the oranges out of a pre-made salad.) She assured me that each was made to order, so I decided to risk it. And am I glad I did.

There were so many texture and taste contrasts going on that this salad was interesting until the last bite. And the dressing with honey, soy, sesame, and ginger complimented all of the veggies and the turkey cubes.

The Garden may not have been part of our initial Salt Lake City dining plans, but was a truly pleasant surprise and earns a 4.0 Addie score.