We've never been to The Copper Onion and I had always heard mixed reviews. When our office food guru Tae-Sik gave it the thumbs up, I decided that I had to check it out. We were really, really impressed. On a high level, it was like a foodie mated with a chuck wagon and their progeny married Tony Caputo and opened up a restaurant. I also got the impression that only about half of the people in the place were really ready for what they were experiencing - very mixed crowd.
We started out with a Charcuterie plate, which you should do. I'm going to plug our server right here in the front of this review. She was the best server I've had in Utah. We went all omakase on her and she did not disappoint. Her name is Angie and she WILL improve your dining experience - so go there, ask for her and tip well.
Angie picked out a few items for us to try out and we ended up with a nicely balanced plate. Gran Biscotto, Grotte Caputo and a mixed-milk brie that I am not remembering the name of. They were all good although I saw an Iberico on the menu that I would have tried out if I were to do it over.
Next we ordered a pork belly appetizer. Pork bellys are probably my favorite food, but this was the only course I really have to critique. The meat was cooked really well - I am not sure how they did it but it was dry and crispy on the outside and really tender on the inside. Almost looked fried but I don't know. The dish was served over Brussels sprouts and parsnips, both of which were cooked perfectly. The killer was the sauce - they doused the whole dish in way too much of a fruit glaze (tasted like it was a cherry base?). The sauce complemented the salty dish, but they just used way too much. I can't give a dish too much credit if I'm scraping off sauce so that I can taste the food.
The arugula salad came next and was an arugula salad. It was pretty straightforward - good (not great) arugula with a Parmesan, black pepper and vinegar dressing. So far the meal was going well and would be outstanding but for the pork belly sauce overload.
Our entrees arrived next. My wife went totally rogue and ordered the cast-iron seared chicken. I thought this was a crazy bad choice and I wanted to plead with her to order something worth talking about. When they delivered her entree - I felt even worse. The presentation wasn't bad, it just looked like some chicken on a bed of spaetzle, asparagus and butternut squash. My entree was the griddled moulard duck breast served with spaghetti squash, a portobello mushroom and some spring greens with pumpkin seeds. Here's the thing though: the chicken was a winner. Even my photo of the dish looks janky, but it was delicious. Don't get me wrong, the duck was really nicely done (thanks again to Angie for directing me towards this), but the chicken was so unexpectedly perfect that we were both blown away. So glad that the foodie gave the chuck wagon a chance.
Speaking of the chuck wagon, we had strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert, and it was great. It felt like the slice of pie you get at a diner in Sweetwater, Texas - big and delicous... no presumption of trying to put a snarky spin on the classic.
Last point was that we took advantage of the BYOB policy and drank the 2008 Vistalba Corte B. Anyone who hangs around me long knows that I'm partial to Argentine wines, and since we didn't know what we were getting we went for a vino de corte (this was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec). This is one of my favorites, dollar for dollar, and has been since I spent some time with the guys who produce it in Mendoza.
We also ordered a bottle of Vichy Catalan water - really interesting sparkling water with a slight salty flavor. This is the only restaurant in Utah to order it with your meal (you can snag it at Caputo's as well). I'm usually not a sparkling water fan but this was a cool addition to the dinner.
The Verdict? I think that The Copper Onion deserves its reputation as one of the best places in SLC to eat creative food. A five course meal for around $100 was quite a value and we felt like our server actually knew a ton about food and how to piece together a great meal. Two thumbs up, we'll be back.