Like so many new restaurants, Saola started as a food-to-door delivery restaurant—a great way to build a customer base with low overhead. In a reverse move, it’s now a destination for mostly Vietnamese food, owned by Diem Nguyen and co-owner and chef Tuan Vu. Right now, it looks like a dicey location for a business whose number one priority is good real estate. The hills behind are just brushland. But it won’t be long before those hills are filled with the high-dollar condos and apartments that are sprouting all over Salt Lake City and then Saola will have another new identity: neighborhood restaurant.

CURRY CONFUSION

So many kinds of curry—how do you know what to expect? Here are some general ideas, which can be contradicted by any chef.

Thai curry: Paste spice mixtures in red, green, yellow, Massaman and Panang versions are the bases for soupy sauces often but not always flavored with coconut
milk, Thai basil, kaffir lime, chilies and fish sauce.

Vietnamese curry: Generally simpler and more of a stew than the soupier Thai curry.

Indian curry: A complex and varying spice mixture usually including ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, and fresh or dried chilies; in the south, this mix may include curry leaves, and others may include
cinnamon, cardamom.

Curry powder: Mostly a
multi purpose Western
invention.

The stand-alone building in Cottonwood Heights should also be popular for apres-ski—a steaming bowl of pho and a banh mi would be a welcome change from the usual burger and pizza carbo-feast that follows a day in the snow. And the light, bright interior, designed by Rachel Hodson, with artisanal-looking fabrics, shimmering gold screens, a sleek sushi bar and a light pink glow from the neon sign saying “Carpe diem” is refreshingly light-hearted compared to the usual log-and-stone mountain eatery.

Dine in the spacious dining room or more intimately in one of the alcoves. Wherever you dine, start with the gorgeous poke and a bowl of the citrus slaw, tangy and bright, shredded cabbage with onion, Thai mint and soy-garlic dressing. The menu is mostly Vietnamese, with some forays into Japanese (sushi) and Chinese (Peking duck) and even some straight-up Western dishes (beef). There are so many selections it would take a number of visits to explore them all, but one stand-out dish was the Imperial sizzling crepe: A giant yellow moon of turmeric-colored rice flour and coconut milk was folded over shrimp, greens and mung beans in a bath of lime-chili sauce with pickles on the side. Enormous and complicated to eat, it was somehow light at the same time.

IF YOU GO:
ADDRESS: 7307 Canyon Centre Pkwy., Cottonwood Heights WEB: saola-slc.com PHONE: 801-944-2949 ENTREES: $$-$$$