Utah is a spread-out place. So some restaurants, like Yuta, aren’t a simple matter of going out to dinner. It’s going way out to dinner. It’s a dinner excursion. It’s a dinner trip. The drive from Salt Lake City to Wanship is 40 miles and Blue Sky Lodge is just past that.
But it’s a gorgeous drive through Utah’s northern countryside—remember when a drive to Park City included a little taste of that? The undulating grassy hills before the rocky outcrops begin, the sky that goes on forever—remember if you make a reservation to eat at Yuta, to take the time to savor the drive. Regard it as an amuse-bouche—a bonbon pour les yeux. You can’t drop in Yuta without a reservation—you’re stopped at the gates and asked what your purpose is in coming.
A charming restaurant manager and knowledgeable server created a friendly and professional feel to our dinner, making it easy to gloss over little weirdnesses like Yuta’s self-described “authentic cuisine inspired by indigenous ﬂavors” which actually included octopus and tuna. Then again, “inspired by” can cover a multitude of errancies. And wherever the ingredients at Yuta come from, Chef Galen Zamarra, who at age 24 won the the James Beard Foundation’s 2001 “Rising Star Chef of the Year” for his work at New York City’s Bouley transforms them into delicious dishes in the moment.
A tuna appetizer contrasted the crudo and bright taste of the greens with brown butter and shallots fried to a fast-food crispness—terriﬁc—although I have to admit I’d pretty much eat anything that has brown butter on it. Sweet corn soup gained heft from a perfectly cooked scallop and depth from huitlacoche, an umami-rich ingredient too seldom used outside Mexican cuisine. The main course halibut presentation was a delight—great lumps of beautiful ﬁsh were wrapped in thin slices of zucchini and lent tartness with an eggplant salad and tomato tapenade. Dishes will change with the seasons. But warm weather dining on Yuta’s patio with its limitless view of the hills and mountains could be an essential Utah dining experience.