Best Mediterranean/Middle Eastern
Best catch: The grilled octopus at Aristo’s is like no other dish in Utah. Chances are good it’s like no other octopus you’ve eaten.
Aristo Boutsikakis has a young lifetime of experience in the restaurant business, but his supreme qualifications are his parents, George and Ekaterina. From the beginning, like the best Greek restaurants, this has been a family operation, George cooking the lamb, Mama making the pastry, Aristo acting the impresario and host. Among the myriad of Greek restaurants in SLC, Aristo’s stands out, not only because the food, service and ambiance (ever been to a Thursday night patio lamb roast?) are the best, but because they keep getting better. 224 S. 1300 East, SLC, 801-581-0888
Like we said: The duck confit steamed bun. Or anything in a steamed bun.
We know just as well as you do that “Asian” is a ridiculously large geographic area to sum up with one culinary description, but that’s as close as we can get to categorizing Plum Alley, Ryan and Colleen Lowder’s second, but probably not last restaurant in Salt Lake. From its charming Chinatown-style interior to the much-lauded steamed buns (Pork belly! Duck confit!), Plum Alley sums up an American take on the Asian continent. In the kimchee stew, you taste the happy collision of two worlds, East and West. 111 E. Broadway, SLC, 801-355-0543
Phat bite: There’s no wagyu in Salt Lake like the beef at Naked Fish.
Easy going Johnny Kwon is bullheadedly making this into one of the edgiest restaurants in town, basing his menu on a near-fanatical commitment to ideals like sustainable sushi, from-scratch everything (that’s why the popular gyoza are no longer on the menu), and authenticity to the utmost. Of course, his is the head of the operation; the hands belong to Chef Tosh Sekikawa armed with his yakitori. 67 W. 100 South, SLC, 801-595-8888
Try the national dish: Chiles en Nogada involve shredded beef–stuffed chiles with dried fruit and a walnut cream sauce. And they come with asparagus.
Colorful, elegant and one-of-a-kind in Utah, Jorge Fierro’s Frida Bistro opened with a daring concept—high-end Mexican food—and has continued to get steadily better even after its initial excellence. The bar and tequila menu has expanded, brunch is now offered, and the new dessert chef, Peter Korth, has sweetened the end-of-the-meal outlook far beyond flan. If you still believe Mexican food begins with chips and ends with enchiladas, you should remember that Mexico City is one of the largest in the world, with all the sophistication that implies. Frida Bistro brings a bite of this to Utah. 545 W. 700 South, SLC, 801-983-6692
J. Wong's Asian Bistro
Celebrate: Chinese New Year at J. Wong’s, with a special menu and a fabulous lion dance.
When people point me to their “best Chinese restaurant” in Utah,” invariably, they add, “You have to know what to order. The good food is not on the menu.” And my response is, “Then it’s not the best restaurant.” Why would you have to know about a secret menu just to get the best a restaurant has to offer? For me, that means it’s not the best. The Wong family has been growing their clientele and menu since opening. And, as guests get more familiar with the food, the Wongs add ever more adventurous dishes to the menu. No secret passwords necessary. 163 W. 200 South, SLC, 801-350-0888
Eat with one hand: Indian street food is the deal here, like the addictive corn pakoras, fritters of chickpea flour, corn and spinach.
Besides serving a daily menu of delectable Indian specialties, Lavanya Mahate’s South Jordan eatery presents several Indian food fests throughout the year. This year, the second annual South Indian Food Festival introduced flavors from some lesser-known regions of the subcontinent, and the first kebab fest featured meat-on-a-stick combinations that a backyard chef never dreamed of. In other words, Saffron Valley educates and expands your palate as it delights your tastebuds. 1098 W. South Jordan Parkway, South Jordan, 801-438-4823
Buon gusto: Agrodolce con Burrata-—grilled cipollini onion and beets, Villa Manodori balsamic vinegar, burrata alla panna “Di Stefano” and grilled bread.
Behind one of the most mercurial men in Utah food is a more serene, stabilizing personality: Emmanuel Levarek , known in the food community as “E Man,” has worked with Eric Debonis for years and has been instrumental in evolving the true Italian menu at his follow-up to The Paris. Unsung E Man and notorious Eric are fanatical about their ingredients, growing much of their produce themselves and buying locally, specifying speck from Alto Adige, carnaroli rice and Dodoni feta. It’s true that when you eat at Sea Salt, you eat it their way or not at all, but fortunately, sometimes headstrong chefs are also correct. 1709 E.1300 South, SLC, 801-349-1480