The City Creek Grill and Martini Bar

By Nick Anis

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The City Creek Grill and Martini Bar is an interesting eclectic American restaurant with a strong French Nouvelle influence. A small but varied selection of unique dishes is offered including some interesting duck, lamb, monkfish, squab, salmon, beef, and pasta.

The elegant contemporary dining room is light and airy and has tall cathedral windows overlooking Temple South. The high domed ceiling is nicely offset with an interesting use of track lighting. The works of artist Lyle Carbahal tastefully decorate the restaurant walls as well as the cover of the menu. As you enter you will pass an attractive open kitchen with a stone pizza oven. The dining area has upholstered hardwood booths and tables that are attractive and comfortable.

The service was quite good. Although our waiter had several tables to care for, he always seemed to be there when we needed him, and yet wasn’t hovering over us like a mosquito.

The gangly 29-year-old chef, James Duehlmeier explained to me that after making major changes, including shifting to more creative dishes, he decided to keep the menu relatively small. He would slowly work up to more dishes. (I think it might be a good idea to add a chicken and pork dish to help win over Salt Lake’s still sizable, meat and potatoes crowd.)

The City Creek Grill’s five appetizers range in price from $7 to $9, and eight entrées are between $18 and $24. The menu might be a little intimidating to some, but there is something for just about everyone, including Grilled Angus New York steak, oven-baked macaroni, and panchetta with ricota cheese.

Duehlmeier started cooking in Salt Lake City, worked in the Caribbean, and then returned to Salt Lake. He has also visited San Francisco where he was apparently influenced by the Bay Area’s abundant eclectic Italian and French restaurants.

The City Creek Grill wine list has a nice selection of California and French wines. After some discussion and friendly gastronomic debate we chose the 1995 Forest Glen Shiraz from the Sonoma Valley in California. The velvety plumb texture had a pleasant port-like aroma. Its nose was almost like a ruby port – definitely aged on oak, probably French. (The California Shiraz grape is basically a different name for the French Ryrrah grape.)

All three of us being food and wine writers, we each had different ideas on what to order. For appetizers, Steward and Sandy chose the buffalo mozzarella with French olives, large vine-ripened tomato, and virgin olive oil with cracked pepper and basil. I chose the assorted greens with dry ricotta, halved teardrop (Poire-Joli Pear) tomatoes, and juicy and sweet Maui onions (which also make good onion rings) with balsamic vinaigrette.

The assorted greens or mesclun was a palate-pleasing mix of colors, textures, and flavors of assorted lettuce, chicory and greens such as red mustard, curly endive or chicory-like frisee, red chard, radicchio, red oakleaf, arugula, mache, mizuna, tat soi, and lollo rosso. The mesclun was superb, although I would have preferred some more dressing, or perhaps just a cruet of balsamic vinegar on the table.

As an entrée, Stuart had the breast of squab with apple and goat cheese ravioli served on a bed of Savoy cabbage topped with roasted shallots and natural juice. The presentation was excellent including a decorative sheaf of slender and delicate fried noodles. The portion size and preparation was good, but the squab was a bit strong.

For her entrée, Sandy chose the pan-roasted Muscovy duck breast with spinach, turnips, candied pearl onions, and Pinot sauce. The Pinot sauce, an intense reduction of Cabernet, was served over a generous portion of thin overlapping slices of rare duck, sautéed whole baby carrots and asparagus on a light bed of spinach. The preparation and presentation was good and the duck was excellent.

I opted for the shellfish bouillabaisse with clams, mussels, lobster, scallops, and shrimp served with rouille. Traditionally, bouillabaisse is made with an assortment of several types of fish and a broth fashioned from puréed fish liver. Generally I don’t eat fish, but I’m a fan of some shellfish, so I jumped at a chance to try this dish. It was quite tasty. As usual, I enjoyed the lobster best, but found the clams and shrimp almost as captivating, ever so closely followed by the mussels and scallops. I suppose this rating hierarchy is a reflection of my general preferences for shellfish. After carefully placing my shells in the large bowl my waiter provided, I went to work on the broth, which was also quite good.

The City Creek Grill makes their own pizza dough and Filone Italian bread on premises, but desserts are made on the outside. Stuart had the pecan pie, which turned out to be a three-nut tort with almonds, pecans, and walnuts. Stuart devoured his pecans and their unexpected companions just the same, finding them all to be quite good. Sandy had the chocolate decadence cake. It was good, but very rich, and the icing was not fully blended. The desserts were served on large festive southwest earth-toned patterned plates (pink for girls and blue for boys) with decorative chocolate saucing. I ordered a much lighter dessert that wasn’t on the menu, a plate of sliced strawberries. My freckled little friends were firm yet ripened, sweet, and best of all, delicious. Our desserts were accompanied with coffee for Stuart and Sandy, and Cappuccino for me. The coffees and Cappuccino were served promptly and had good flavor, color, and temperature – a fine end to a fine meal.

Although the menu, which is still evolving, needs a few more choices, the City Creek Grill located in the Wyndham Hotel has some interesting and tasty dishes you are well advised to try for yourself.

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Nick Anis is a computer and technology writer and the author of 24 books who also writes about travel, food & wine, entertainment, skiing and family recreation. He writes for Ziff-Davis, Microtimes, The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Travel Watch, TravelGram, and Restaurant-Row. He is responsible for the Restaurant Row Ethnic Dining Guide, co-published by the Long Beach Press Telegram. Nick is a member of the Computer Press Association, The International Food Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFW&TWA), and the North American Ski Journalists Assn. (NASJA).  Nick can be reached at NickAnis@travel-watch.com, Phone: 909-860-6914, Fax: 909-396-0014.

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