Admittedly, we're a town that loves hearty, disparages conceit and can't refuse a value. We can easily feast on platters of mole as complex as Mexican legislative intrigue or sink our teeth into burgers no one, not even denture-wearing Granny, could pass up. So what business does a place like Forage have in this Land O'Plenty?
Diversification. The mantra of financial planners and biologists applies aptly to our very own restaurant scene.
There's no shortage of culinary categories and adjectives. Pliable and sometimes, bizarre, we create hyphenated terms to make them fit a particular concept or restaurant. In the case of Forage, we'll spare you the dining rigamarole. In lieu of a catchphrase or category, I'll simply tell you that this small dinner-only restaurant is the next necessary chapter in the local dining scene. Mentally classify it under "skillful technique" rather than a particular pantry of seasonings.
Chef-owners Viet Pham and Bowman Brown introduce a level of fine dining infused with the energy and unpretentiousness of their young age. Forage is a place to admire a Napa-cabbage wrapped poulet rouge breast (read: chicken) cooked sous vide (vacuum-sealed, gentle, long cooking) to a butter-tender consistency and paired with a crispy smoky strata of chicken thigh and bacon; or a composition of seasonal produce, say peaches rooted from neighborly soil, carefully cooked, concentrated and paired with a pistachio cake, a dusting of the pulverized pistachio, an intensely peach ice cream and an oatmeal cream that summoned childhood breakfast memories.
The kitchen, which resembles a lab more than the set of a Gordon Ramsay show, works with familiar flavors, playing with them much the way Cubist painters filtered reality through their minds and onto canvas. There are only two options for ordering from the ever-changing menu: a $39 three-course meal or a $79 tasting that averages out to 11 courses, sometimes more, and four hours. Compared to the going market price for equivalent tastings in NYC, it's a screaming deal.
Such concepts might be off-putting to some local diners -- really, they shouldn't be. But for the food-curious and those who revel in out-of-town dining memories of Per Se, Aureole and the like, Forage's presence is a welcome signal that Salt Lake City's dining scene isn't such a desert after all.
This small, dinner-only venue specializes in impeccable technique, good ingredients and imagination normally associated with culinary meccas. Only three- or 11-course options are available, but each showcases gorgeous presentation and food and is worth every penny.
Location » 370 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City; 801-708-7834
Hours » Tuesday to Saturday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Children's menu » No
Prices » $$$
Liquor » Beer and wine
Corkage » $15 for first bottle, $25 each subsequent bottle
Reservations » Accepted
Takeout » No
Wheelchair access » Yes
Outdoor dining » No
On-site parking » Yes
Credit cards » All major