Sunday, May 31, 2009

TIPICA

***Editor's Note: Less than a year into its much-anticipated debut, TIPICA has left the building. I first heard the rumor at a dinner party late last month, and a quick google search when I arrived home that night confirmed the rumor's truth: TIPICA would close January 31, 2010. After visiting the restaurant several weeks back I was not entirely surprised by the news. Chef Kreisel seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders as he scanned the quiet dining room, but he was also hopeful that some planned menu modifications might attract more customers. I'm not sure what transpired in the weeks that followed, but I do know that this is a loss for our city. Like many, we scaled back our dining out over the past year in response to job uncertainty as a result of the recession. In a good year, we would have likely visited TIPICA much more frequently. Construction of modern condos near the restaurant also slowed with the economic downturn, and I am convinced that if it had only been filled with residents, TIPICA would have had a healthy crowd looking for an excuse not to cook dinner on a Wednesday night. Some say the health-conscious maybe had the misconception the menu was all pasta and risotto. The reality is that the closing of the restaurant is probably not this simple, but it is saddening all the same.

TIPICA, the latest project from the people who brought vibrancy -- and a cheese cave -- to downtown Salt Lake City is finally here after much anticipation. It was last summer when we first learned that Tony Caputo's Market and Deli was planning to transform its deli into a dinner spot by night; we've since enjoyed following the progress during weekly visits to stock up on an array of vices from the marketplace. We became Adam Kreisel fans during his stint as chef at Acme Burger Company, and the idea of combining his creativity with the forward-thinking vision of Caputo’s is a recipe destined for greatness.

I’ve had a special place in my heart for Tony Caputo’s Market and Deli ever since their meatball sandwich knocked me right off the vegetarian wagon I'd been riding on nearly a decade ago. The line, “I'm vegetarian with the exception of meatballs from Caputo’s,” quickly wore thin and the jig was up. Like some recovering vegetarians, my “born again” relationship with meat exists in a complex and admittedly compartmentalized zone I like to refer to as “denial.” Carpaccio is a favorite, but sweetbreads were checked off my “life list” only by accident. That said, I have a deep appreciation for the “nose-to-tail” philosophy: if you are going to (insert euphemism) send an animal to swim with the fishes, at least show it the respect of utilizing as much of it as you can. Leave it to Kreisel and the pioneers at Caputo’s to introduce this concept to Salt Lake City’s still-growing dining community.

Risotto Cakes 2
Amuse Bouche - Risotto Cakes with Meyer Lemon Marscapone and Micro Greens

Tipica's Scallop Crudo
Scallop Crudo, Shaved Fennel, Braised Kale, Lobster Vinaigrette - $10

TIPICA'S web site lists this plate at $12, but I am pretty sure the printed menu at the restaurant had it coming in at $10, which seems more realistic. Raw scallops likely aren't for everyone, and Kreisel indicated that opinions have been pretty split on this one. I for one enjoyed their cool texture, nestled within the salad's Napolean-esque presentation.

Roasted Cauliflower
Roasted Cauliflower with Balsamic Glaze, Parsley sprigs - $5

If all veggies were served like this J would never fall short of the food pyramid's daily recommendations. He thoroughly enjoyed the slightly charred intro, followed by the nuttiness of the cauliflower and finally, the sweet finish provided by the balsamic.

Lamb Ragout and Polenta
Lamb Neck and Shoulder Ragout with Creamy Polenta, Micro Fennel - $18

J reports that the meat was soft, moist and balanced in flavor: not overly pungent yet with a nice earthiness to it. The dish was, as he put it, "how lamb should be." He ventured to suggest its subtle flavor might pleasantly surprise those who typically steer clear of lamb.

Heirloom Squash Ravioli
Heirloom Squash, Ricotta & Chestnut Honey Ravioli with Sage Cream, Wild Mushrooms, Arugula - $15

A rather hearty dish and a culmination of so many of my favorite things. Kreisel hand makes the ravioli, which is evident in the thick folds of pasta. The fresh arugula helped to take the edge off the richness of the sage cream.

As for the dining room, mustard-toned curtains give TIPICA a willowy feel while concealing the soda machines, cash register and other evidence of the daytime deli. Unfortunately, the curtains also hide the kitchen from diners; the voyeurs in us had wanted to watch Kreisel et al at work.

TIPICA'S menu may be small, but it offers something for everyone: carnivores, omnivores, herbivores -- and those of us who reside somewhere in between. Favoring local, sustainable sources Kreisel intends to change things up frequently. It will be interesting to watch the selections evolve with the region's very distinct four seasons.

We were quite pleased with the restaurant's affordable wine list and very minimal wine markups...so much so that we ordered a bottle of Marques de Gelida cava ($23) to enjoy in addition to the bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape we'd brought from home. With a food menu of nothing over $20 and a wine list this approachable, TIPICA, like Caputo's Market and Deli, is in touch with what our community wants and needs. We look forward to its progression.

- K


TIPICA
314 W. 300 S.
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
801.328.0222

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1 Comments:

Blogger Cafe Johnsonia said...

Great review. That's on my list of restaurants to go to. I need to move it up to spot #1.

11:30 PM  

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