After six years of commuting between Salt Lake City and New York City to run four restaurants in the Big Apple, Zy's chef Matthew Lake has landed in Utah for good.
"I have waited a long time to open my own space and don't believe I could have picked a better town to do it in," Lake said. "I really believe Salt Lake City is in the middle of some very cool culinary times."
His dream has culminated in Zy (it rhymes with pie) a contemporary American high-end establishment catering to locals, travelers and business people in downtown Salt Lake City.
If you had ever eaten at Five Star, the transformation of the space into Zy's breathtaking. Clean lines, artistic lighting, interesting peek-a-boo windows into the kitchen and, of course, the cheese and wine bar suggest that this isn't your neighborhood cafÃ©.
But instead of being pretentious and off-putting, Zy's floor-to-ceiling windows suggest this is a place you should get to know better. And happily, the overall dining experience lives up to the atmosphere.
Passionate about food, Chef Lake can regularly be found sharing his culinary thoughts or just saying hello to guests throughout the dining room. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, he's also been named one of the Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine magazine and nominated for Chef of the Year by the National Restaurant Association.
While the menu at Zy might be small, each choice from the tangy, balsamic-dressed bibb salad with roasted stone fruits ($11) to the French press coffee ($4) has been carefully orchestrated for maximum presentation and taste value.
Zy opened for lunch and dinner in July and both the menu and ambiance adapt to diners' needs and budgets. Midday, you'll find a lunch special for $12 featuring a petit chopped bibb salad, soup of the day, and one cheese selection. It's a great way to experience lots of tastes at a reasonable price.
Zy's cheese bar features a frequently changing menu with selections from Utah, across the country (Maytag Blue from Iowa and the creamy, ash-ribboned Humboldt Fog from California, for example) and European flavors such as the cow's milk Boschetto tartufo. Local Beehive Cheese selections of Barely Buzzed and Promontory cheddar both also are on the list. Guests can order three generous selections for $11 or five options for a very reasonable $15.
Appetizers are as memorable as the main entrÃ©es. Of particular note are the scallops with almond, curry and a red wine reduction ($12). The scallops were perfectly cooked and the robust flavors of curry and red wine offset the delicate seafood without overwhelming it. Moist and spicy chorizo meatballs with a light sherry cream ($7) are hearty and a great shared-table appetizer served with grilled bread to finish.
For dinner, the Peking-style duck breast with blood-orange reduction or the basil-crusted lamb loin are examples of how these often-disastrous entrÃ©es can be done exceedingly well.
The pecan pork ($21) entrÃ©e is juicy, tender and well-balanced with the crusted pecans and wild mushrooms and sautÃ©ed greens.
Even menu items that might sound pedestrian, such as the hanger steak with roasted tomatoes ($21), taste great. The steak appeared as strips of buttery beef accompanied by a garlic-and-cheese potato gratin of ultra-thin potato slices layered with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Though presented as a support for the delicious steak, the gratin is worthy of its own menu listing.
Perhaps the only disappointments of my experiences at Zy were the wild mushroom and spinach enchiladas with goat cheese ($9 lunch, $18 dinner) that offered earthy flavors but swam in far too much salsa verde. I was excited to try the barramundi, or Asian seabass, ($23) as it's not a fish you often see on the menu here in land-locked Utah, but the avocado and pea puree lacked depth, leaving the lemon-glazed mushrooms and fish awash in a sea of green.
As for the dessert choices (all $7), our table was divided as to whether the chocolate options (sweet tres leches covered in velvety chocolate or decadent brownie with cabernet sauce) or the fruit selections (refreshing mango custard or comforting berry crisp) won the evening.
Zy's entire wine menu is offered either by the glass or by the bottle. Selections are mainly from the West Coast (California, Oregon and Washington) with a few European and Australian choices added.
Service, from the bottom up, is efficient and informed. My lunch server made excellent recommendations and offered genuine conversation as I waited for my dining companion to arrive. Lake, who had a full house including Mayor Ralph Becker during one Dine-O-Round evening, still took the time to visit tables and make sure everyone was enjoying their dinner. Even the general manager went out of his way to reprint my receipt and email it to me after I left it behind. The general feeling of being expertly taken care of will bring me back to Zy as much as the inspired cuisine.
Restaurant reviewer Heather L. King blogs at http://www.examiner.com/lunch-in-salt-lake-city/heather-king. Send comments about this review to firstname.lastname@example.org or post a response at facebook.com/tribremix.
Food • HHH
Mood • HHhj
Service • HHH
Noise • bbb
A downtown wine and cheese bar with a stellar menu featuring steak, seafood and fowl brings a bit of New York style to Salt Lake.
Location • 268 S. State St., Salt Lake City; 801-779-4730
Online • http://www.zyrestaurant.com
Hours • Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Monday to Thursday, 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 4 to 8 p.m.
Children's menu • Yes
Prices • $$$
Liquor • Full service
Corkage • $12
Reservations • Accepted
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking • No (Thursday to Saturday, $4 valet parking)
Credit cards • All major