Zy is better than ever.
Stopped by last night for a glass of wine and stayed for dinner last night at Zy (268 South State Street), Matthew Lake's downtown outpost.
And by downtown, I mean downtown. At one point, a street citizen wandered in, mumbling to himself. Chef Lake came out of the kitchen, gave the guy a glass of water and sent him firmly on his way.
I don't mention this because it happens all the time, or because it was so disturbing–the incident was barely a blip in the chic sleekness of the restaurant's atmosphere–but because it's one of the realities of being a true urban pioneer.
The wall of windows looks out on a typical block of State Street. The row of buildings across the street are in the middle of being rehabbed for mixed-use; the old facades will stay. Zy's new summer patio is being installed on Thursday and will run the length of the cafe.
In other words, downtown SLC will still look like downtown, but more so: this downtown has street life of a different kind. As Chef Lake likes to say, "State Street is the new Main Street."
Meanwhile, inside Zy's kitchen, things have strengthened and balanced out since the early days. The dishes are less experimental, more confident and grounded in a cohesive style, more consistently executed.
Starters–a beautiful platter of watermelon cubes with Creminelli prosciutto, a salad of arugula and asparagus, and a plate of greens with chopped beets and smoked trout–
were perfect summer foods, cool and substantial at the same time. The french fries, a mound of super thin herb-sprinkled potato strands, were a great cocktail snack and by the way, the selection of bourbons is very nice. A Manhattan was garnished with dried cherries.
Mains repeated the theme of classy unpretentiousness: roast Mary's chicken, short ribs with cheese grits, rosy duck breast with shreds of crispy leg meat and striped–not sea!–with sun choke puree, none of it overwrought, none of it killer-rich, just balanced flavorful food.
And Lake has a way with the sweet stuff. Mascarpone instead of cream cheese on a carrot cake is a great idea.
Memories of his perfect peach from last year's Farmers Market chef competition still linger, but the strawberry rhubarb shortcake–true shortcake, biscuit-like with just a touch of sugar–slathered in bourbon whipped cream we had last night will rival the memory.