This summer, in-the-know diners have been enjoying one of the most inventive, surprising meals in SLC. On select weekends in June, July and August, the acclaimed Japanese-Korean restaurant Nohm has transformed into Arthur, a new popup restaurant from Kevin and Lex Finch. This new dining experience only serves an 8-course tasting menu and selections from a curated wine list, and even in a SLC dining scene with a growing roster of creative upscale restaurants, Arthur stands out.
The August tasting menu—chef Kevin Finch has updated the courses monthly—began with a few courses nonchalantly described as snacks. For starters: a barbecued kumiai oyster, served chilled, with fermented red currant. Then, a perfectly crisp sourdough waffle is served with a spread that layers cultured cream, trout roe and summer herbs. Perhaps the most unexpected dish is a plate of canary melon and cantaloupe—both compressed in tomato water—served with cherry tomatoes and barbecued dragon tongue beans and seasoned with fish sauce and lime juice. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does, giving new life to often-used Utah produce.
For the fourth course, France meets Utah in a tart starring local vegetables. Pâte brisée (a French shortcrust pastry) is filled with Comté cheese, squash and pickled onions glazed in a roasted corn stock with a sauce of corn and saffron. The two main courses are barbecued salmon with burnt eggplant and brown butter and roasted chicken with locally foraged mushrooms, sorrel and jus. Kevin admits that dessert is not his usual specialty: “For a long time, I was like, ‘I don’t know how to make desserts. I hate desserts.’” This initial apprehension inspired him to think creatively about two sweet courses that he describes as “very chef-y” desserts. The intermezzo is a vanilla panna cotta topped with cucumber granita. “For me, cucumbers are refreshing. They’re super juicy. They cleanse the palette,” Kevin says. For the final dish, Kevin begins with a base of delicious blackberries from Frog Bench Farms and adds almond, Amano Dos Rios dark chocolate and freeze-dried berries.
Though Kevin is a Utah native, Arthur is his SLC culinary debut. His first experience in the kitchen was as an apprentice at The Grand America in high school. He traveled around after graduation but soon got serious about his culinary ambitions. “When I actually fell in love with cooking and decided that’s what I wanted to do, I came up with a game plan,” he says. That game plan: scrimp and save, move to New York City and gain experience in the country’s best restaurants. After moving, he started working at the now-closed Betony, which earned a Michelin star in its first year of opening. Over the next several years, he cooked in kitchens across the globe, including a stint in China that lasted through 2020. (You can see where this is going.) After taking a vacation for the Chinese New Year, Kevin and Lex couldn’t return home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Eventually, the couple moved back in with Kevin’s parents and found jobs in Utah. (Lex, who has experience both in marketing and food service, worked as a barback at Water Witch, while Kevin started a gig as a private chef in Park City.) Meanwhile, they kept working together on a long-gestating idea for a wine bar called Arthur.
Kevin’s globe-trotting experiences influenced Arthur’s menu. At the Manhattan Italian eatery Maialino, he worked with ingredients fresh from the market, mirroring Arthur’s locally focused food that emphasizes sustainability. He then moved to Oslo to work at Maaemo, whose multi-course menu Kevin describes as “very French” with “tight plating.” (Arthur similarly excels at clean, visually precise dishes.) Before unexpectedly returning to Utah, Kevin served as Executive Sous Chef at Ensue, Christopher Kostow’s restaurant in Shenzhen, China. Kevin’s time in Asia influenced the imaginative cuisine at Arthur. “I really love Chinese ingredients and condiments and the way that they cook,” he explains. Developing Arthur’s menu over time, Kevin found the right balance in his own unique approach to different cuisines. “I think at the beginning I was playing with it too much and not really playing to my roots,” he says. Now, Arthur’s menu is established in Western tradition and French technique, but subtle Asian influences—like the fish sauce flavoring the melon course—add new dimensions to the food.
Kevin and Lex agree that they want Arthur to hold high standards while remaining approachable to diners and staff alike. Kevin has spent enough time in kitchens to know what he doesn’t want for his team—he eschews tips, pays employees a living wage and consciously avoids the toxic work environment that’s all too common in the industry. The staff at Arthur is already a close-knit team of family and friends—Kevin’s brother and sisters-in-law have helped as dishwashers, expeditors and servers, while Nohm’s chef-owner David Chon is at the grill. Lex says the front-of-house avoids the “pomp and circumstance” of many fine dining institutions. She curated the menu’s wine list but doesn’t have training as a sommelier—she’s just an enthusiast with a passion for good wine. The restaurant’s name is a tribute to the welcoming, open vibe the Finches hope to create. Arthur is a pseudonym that Kevin’s late father used as a regular at restaurants across Salt Lake. The name inspired a persona that represents the couple’s philosophy for Arthur, which Lex describes as “a normal guy that likes to have a good time. He’s well traveled and appreciates a good meal, but also wants to sit at the bar and make friends along the way.”
For now, this weekend will be your last chance to eat at Arthur. Kevin and Lex have plans to open a restaurant at a permanent location as soon as this spring, where they will serve both a tasting menu and a small selection of à la carte dishes. For Kevin, the creation of Arthur is the realization of a longtime dream, and he says that his globetrotting career was always meant to return back to his hometown. “The plan was always to move back here…and share it with people,” he says.
For more information on Arthur, visit their website.
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