Well dining friends, another month has come and gone and Utah’s culinary scene is fired up. Lots of new restaurant openings have happened or are soon to come in the next few months, yet nearly my entire list comes from long-time favorites and a couple I discovered while reviewing for The Salt Lake Tribune. Feel free to share where you’ve been enjoying meals these days in the comments.
Let’s get to the November 2021 Top 5 Bites list. I know you’re hungry!
Agedashi tofu at Tona Sushi
A longtime Ogden favorite, Tona Sushi has been serving some of Utah’s best sushi for more than a decade. Their agedashi tofu presentation is one of my must-haves because it’s perfect for sharing. The long, slender serving tray makes chopstick access easy while it also keeps the lightly-fried tofu floating in the broth, preventing the pieces from becoming overly soggy while allowing for effortless dipping. The only downside to the shallow depth is that the bonito flakes waver less in the rising steam but it’s a small price to pay for delicious shareability around the table.
Insalata contadina at Celeste
For those who’ve eaten at Celeste, the restaurant is likely a favorite when you feel like being transported into the Tuscan countryside for an authentic Italian dinner. Yet, the spot is still a bit of a hidden gem, tucked away in a strip mall in Murray. And while the large menu is filled with pastas and meat offerings, we always make room for the inslalata contadina, a salad composed of arugula and radicchio then topped with fresh fennel and Gorgonzola cheese which is all dressed with housemade balsamic vinaigrette. The bitter greens, anise-forward fennel and tangy dressing make it a perfect foil to the many rich offerings for a perfectly balanced meal.
Lamb rogan josh at Everest Curry Kitchen
I know of exactly two Indian restaurants in Salt Lake that serve lamb rogan josh–and Everest Curry Kitchen is my favorite. Located in Sandy, the restaurant actually boasts one of the largest selection of lamb dishes I’ve seen and best of all the meat is tender and well trimmed. Rogan josh is a type of creamy curry and the gravy at Everest Curry Kitchen is rich with garlic and aromatic spices–perfect for dipping hot, tandoor-baked naan.
Shabu shabu at Mr. Shabu
Shabu shabu (swish swish in Japanese) is one of those interactive meals you and your guests can really make a personal dining experience. At Mr. Shabu in the Gateway, individual hot pots built into the tables are filled with a soup base–Mr. Shabu’s and tonkotsu are the top choices I debate between each meal there–and then you cook everything yourself in the boiling pot. Order your choice of meats (pork belly is a must!) and the add unlimited seafood, fresh vegetables and noodles from the salad bar finished with dipping sauces.
$17.97 (lunch), $25.97 (dinner)
Rare beef and brisket pho at Pho Bien Hoa
Pho is always one of the meals I crave the most during the wintertime. Over the years, Pho Bien Hoa has been a dine-in staple but during the pandemic I became a takeout fan as well–partly due to the wonderful way they prepare food to go. The meats are nicely cut and laid out, the herbs and veggies are generously portioned and the broth is well-packaged to prevent spills. A few seconds in the microwave for steaming, soul-warming broth; a dunk of the noodles and in no time the pho is ready to slurp.