We’ve eaten in dozens of new restaurants this year — some were great, others not so much. But as the year comes to a close, it’s nice to look back and remember the standout dishes of 2012. We’d eat them again, and are looking forward to discovering more great tastes in 2013.
Best steak and potatoes
What propels steak, potato and veggies onto our best of 2012 list? Simply the creativity and excellence of the revamped kitchen at The Aerie at Snowbird Ski Resort. The Beef tenderloin ($36) is a delightfully imaginative reworking of classic ingredients. The dish starts with an expertly cooked, quality tenderloin, finished with mushroom butter, roasted red onion sauce and a spectacular soufflé-like ramp and potato custard. It makes for a dish fit for the inspiring mountain views that the restaurant affords every diner.
Best Vietnamese street food
Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen offers a Honey-glazed pork (thit nuong) banh mi sandwich for just $4.18. You won’t believe the deal you’re getting as you bite into the warm, garlic-buttered 8-inch baguette and begin to experience the multitude of flavors in the forms of sweet pork brightened with fresh cilantro, mild cucumber contrasted with the sting of jalapeno, and pickled carrots and daikon radish finished with that staple of all banh mi sandwiches, a chile-lime fish vinaigrette.
Best Indian fried chicken
Curry. Fried. Chicken. If you’re like us, you’re already out the door and on your way. The best way to sample the Curry Fried Chicken’s star creation is via the Curry fried chicken plate. For ten bucks (technically $9.99), you get a heaving plate of vegetable curry, basmati rice, salad and warm pita bread, topped off with two pieces of extra crunchy fried chicken boosted with Indian seasonings. Every last bite is a sweet and spicy riot. Since additional pieces of chicken are just $1.49 each, go ahead and treat yourself to a few more bites of heaven.
Best college appetizer
Mountain West Burrito’s Half-and-half nachos ($8) are an ideal group appetizer or full-size entrée for Utah County residents and students. The half-and-half comes with your choice of any two meat or vegetable combinations. Marinated steak, seasoned chicken, tender-roasted veggies, moist carnitas or vegetarian choices are piled over crisp and lightly salted tortilla chips, black beans, fresh salsa and melted cheese. For an additional $1, top it with sour cream and guacamole.
Best Peruvian poultry
Forget learning all those complicated recipes for the perfect roast chicken and just go grab the Pollo a la brasa from El Rocoto. This Peruvian roasted chicken comes by the quarter ($5.85), half ($8.85) or full bird ($15.85). Orders are served up Con papas y ensalada — that’s a side of thick french fries and dressed green salad to you and me. Whatever size you choose, though, El Rocoto’s chile-rubbed chicken offers some of the most flavorful, moistest and juiciest chicken meat I’ve ever tasted.
Per Noi Trattoria is the restaurant you always dreamed of having in your neighborhood, and those who live in Sugar House are lucky enough to be able to enjoy the Pollo marsala entree ($14.95) six days a week. Aromatic marsala wine sauce covers a succulent chicken breast and sautéed mushrooms, with enough of the sauce left over to be soaked up with the complimentary house bread. A generous side of perfectly al dente penne pasta with bright pomodoro sauce completes the meal.
Best vegetable revelation
A Salt Lake City restaurant that affords as much respect and care to its vegetables as its meats requires serious attention, and Finca is such a restaurant. Zanahoria de asador ($6) highlights the kitchen’s capability and attitude towards every ingredient. Grilled carrots, cumin honey and saffron butter combined to make me reconsider carrots entirely, as these are an absolute revelation.
Café SuperNatural’s Machu Picchu vegetarian entrée ($8.75) starts with a solid base of steamed and sliced potatoes (or your choice of quinoa) then ascends to a colorful mix of steamed seasonal vegetables slathered with a roasted chili cashew cream sauce reminiscent of a homestyle gravy with a chile kick. You’ve never tasted cashew prepared like this before.
Best steamy pork
Despite a continually evolving menu, one thing always remains constant at Plum Alley: their fabulously addictive steamed Pork belly buns. A measly $6 secures two slices of instant heaven. Each bun consists of a hunk of almost illegally rich and juicy pork belly, coated in a salty cincalok glaze, resting in a piece of steamed dough. With the restaurant’s communal tables, this place serves plates for sharing, but you’ll want to devour these treats all by yourself.
Best finger food
The Taste of Mahider combination platter ($24.99 for two people) is the ideal way to try a profusion of Ethiopian flavors. Yedoro wot (spicy chicken stew served with ibe cheese), yesega wot (chunks of beef in a Ethiopian-spiced sauce) and yesega alicha (beef stew) are accompanied by collard greens sautéed with garlic, jalapeno peppers and spices (gomen); lentil and chick pea watt mixtures and fesolia — a vegetable stew containing string beans, carrots, tomatoes and onions lightly seasoned with garlic, ginger and turmeric. Enjoy all this on a plate of tangy, crepe-like injera, which will help you scoop up the entire meal with your hands.
Top 10 dishes of 2012
Here’s where to get our most memorable meals of the past year
The Aerie at Snowbird • 60 Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, inside the Cliff Lodge, Salt Lake City, 801-933-2181.
Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen • 3425 S. State St., Salt Lake City, 801-467-6882; and 6093 S. Highland Drive, 801-277-9888.
Curry Fried Chicken • 660 S. State St., Salt Lake City, 801-924-9188.
Mountain West Burrito • 1796 N. 950 West, Provo, 801-805-1870; and 815 N. 700 East, Provo, 801-607-1766.
El Rocoto • 3904 W. 3500 South, Suite B, West Valley City, 801-963-2657.
Finca • 1291 S. 1100 East, Salt Lake City, 801-487-0699.
Cafe SuperNatural • 600 S. 700 East, west end of Trolley Square, Salt Lake City, 801-363-1000.
Per Noi Trattoria • 1588 E. Stratford Ave., Salt Lake City, 801-486-3333.
Plum Alley • 11 E. 300 South, Suite 190, Salt Lake City, 801-355-0543.
Taste of Mahider • 1465 S. State St., #7, Salt Lake City, 801-975-1111.