It may seem odd that a brand-new restaurant has tables that don’t match, but at Urban Hill — the upscale eatery that’s the first tenant in Salt Lake City’s emerging Post District development — that’s by design.
“Part of the design is just creating a lot of different-sized tables,” said Brooks Kirchheimer, who co-owns the restaurant with his father, David. “So not just your traditional restaurant, where it’s all one-size table, either square or circle. We have ovals, we have circles, we have rectangles, squares.”
The design also plays with color, with different-colored chairs; there’s even couch-like seating at some tables.
Urban Hill, which opened Dec. 15, is the latest eatery from the Park City-based Leave Room For Dessert restaurant group, which operates Hearth and Hill and Hill’s Kitchen. It’s the company’s first eatery in Salt Lake City.
It’s also the first business to open in the Post District. Right now, that means diners will catch glimpses of Tyvek wrap, cranes and hard hats. Eventually, it’s meant to be a bustling new neighborhood with 13 acres of offices, apartments, shops, restaurants and bars — including the newest location of Level Crossing Brewery.
The space Urban Hill occupies at 510 S. 300 West is 7,200 square feet, but Kirchheimer noted that it doesn’t feel that big. That’s because of how the Denver-based architecture firm Semple Brown laid out the space, with many smaller, intimate spaces, including a bar area, a raw seafood bar and two private dining rooms, he said.
Open kitchen and a raw bar
Kirchheimer said they wanted the space to feel “comfortable, modern, a space that fits into the city, but also transparent,” which is why they built the server station visible to the dining area.
“And our kitchen remains fully open,” he said. “All of our restaurants have kitchens that are open — we’re big believers in letting the guests get a look at what it takes to cook all of this food.”
Or not cook it. At the raw bar, diners can watch as servers prep shrimp and lobster cocktails, oysters or crudo featuring tangerine agua chile, jalapeño, salted cucumber, and furikake. (Fun fact: the granite backslab at the raw bar weighs 1,700 pounds.)
One of the most popular seats in the restaurant, he said, has been near the custom-built wood-fired grill, which is 100% wood- and charcoal-fired, with no gas.
“We take all the ashes out every night, and put them in the back and they collect them on a weekly basis,” Kirchheimer said. “Local wood is what we use. It’s a lot of fun. People here feel like they’re at a party table, because they’re right in the action. You get to see the chefs at work.”
Around the corner is what they are calling the Kirchheimer Table, which has a very family-dining-room feel. That leads to the first private dining room, which features a dramatic granite fireplace and large paintings by local artist Samatha DaSilva.
“These have [material] from the Great Salt Lake in them,” he said. “Also, I’m a huge sports fan, and she was asking questions as she got to know us, and I’m a huge L.A. Clippers fan. She actually took one of my jerseys and put it in the piece. You can see it, but you can see some of the textures of it. With restaurants, it’s really fun to have a story behind it.”
There are even stories around the bathrooms.
“I like to joke that my dad and co-founder is the director of bathroom design,” he said. “He always wants to take an expert interest in them. So a cool thing about this that he stole from the Delta Sky Club is the touch-free entrance.” Wave your hands over a panel, and voila — no germy handles to touch.
The other private dining room — which also holds 50 people — was designed to have more of a Parisian cafe feel, with accordion windows and light-colored tile floor.
Centering the menu on the grill
Executive chef Nick Zocco — formerly of Tupelo and SW Steakhouse at Wynn Las Vegas — centered the menu around the custom-built wood-fired grill, where local meats, including game and bison ribeye, are cooked.
The grill is also used for veggie options, including coal-roasted beets with watercress, furikake granola, maple crème fraîche, and aged balsamic, ember-roasted carrots with feta, pepitas, pine nuts, cilantro and New Mexico red chile sauce. (Assisting Zocco are chef de cuisine Blake Schumpert and sous chef Daniel Nunez.)
The menu also features items not cooked on the grill: Dill-seasoned latkes, a hat tip to David Kirscheimer’s Jewish heritage; and Urban Hill’s most popular dish, the beef tallow potato pavé.
“It’s seasoned between each layer, and then cut cold, and then we lightly deep-fry it and then finish it in the oven, so that it has a crisp outside and a very soft inside,” Zocco said. “It’s served with a soft egg, ricotta salata, which is a sheep’s milk cheese, which gives it a little bit of salinity, and then a hatch chile aioli, which speaks to my New Mexico heritage, and then fried capers. … It represents almost a breakfast texture — you get the egg and the potatoes. But I could eat breakfast any time of the day.”
Drinks and dessert
Since food is usually paired with drinks, there’s a softly lit, glass-walled wine room, which can hold more than 1,200 bottles of wine, all hand-picked by sommelier Bijan Ghiai, formerly of Pallet and Copper Onion. Urban Hill also serves beer, wine and cocktails.
And, true to their company’s name, dessert, with a menu developed by Zocco in tandem with Hearth and Hill pastry chef Jessie Rae Nakoneczny, including an affogato — in which vanilla ice cream is “drowned” with a shot of Publik Coffee Roaster’s espresso.
“I think what makes this whole space unique is the open environment,” Zocco said. “When you walk in, you almost feel like you are in someone’s home. I feel like this is the only place in Salt Lake offering this type of environment.”
Kirchheimer said that home feel is what they were trying to create. “The kitchen doesn’t look like a commercial kitchen — between the wood, and the stone, and the metal add to that feeling,” he added.
His favorite take on Urban Hill so far, Kirscheimer said, came from their lighting designer, when he came in from New York to install the fixtures. “He described it as a large, warm hug.”
Urban Hill, at 510 S. 300 West, Salt Lake City, is open for dinner from 4 to 9:30 p.m., seven days a week; reservations can be made online — go to urban-hill.com. For the latest news on menu offerings and more, visit the website or their Instagram account, @urbanhillslc.