On a Thursday night at 6:30 the restaurant was mostly empty. Although Franck's has a big parking lot directly adjacent to the restaurant, valet parking is required. I get annoyed when valet parking is offered as a jobs program instead of a needed service (the friendly valet parked my car about 8 feet from where I left it with him), but no big deal. The staff was out front working on garden boxes in which summer herbs would be grown when we came inside. This made me happy. Given the heat wave, we decided to sit inside despite a very nice outdoor dining area.
Once seated, we found the service to be friendly and attentive, though not perfectly informed. The waitstaff (ours and others whom we overheard) didn't really possess a superior knowledge of food or wine so you're pretty much on your own there. What we were told was that Franck is known for his soups and sauces, and that "everything on the menu was amazing".
We started off with a cheese fondue - a mix of gruyere, emmentaler and Swiss cheeses. The flavor was good if a bit boring, and the portion was huge. The cubed bread served with the fondue was dry and overall this appetizer was filling but not inspiring. I would say it comes in a notch below what you would find at a national fondue-themed chain that rhymes with pelting rot. I was also a bit shocked at the amount of food which came out with this and every course - a clear departure from the French tradition of slight to moderate portions.
Entrees are served with soup or salad at Franck's, so we split and tried both. This was the low point of the meal - the BLT soup was truly awful. It tasted like a blend of tomato and fry sauce topped with a few ribbons of lettuce and some bacon bits. Off.
The salad was not better than the soup as it was an overdressed and wilted pile of greens that reminded me of the salad course I dreaded as a child when drug to the most amazing and horrible steak house in west Texas.
At this point in the meal I was really confused. Clearly Franck has vision because his menu is legitimately exciting (despite the erroneous mention of both Kobe and Waygu beef), and the recommendations of this place came from trusted fans of good food. Thankfully things improved (a bit).
I ordered the roasted Utah rack of lamb, served on a Japanese pancake with edamame-mint pudding and plum red wine sauce. Two pieces of meat came on the plate and though both were cooked to perfect temperature, one was absolutely perfect while the other was not tender at all. Flavors of the meat were great, but the plum sauce was super sweet and far too plentiful. The edamame-mint pudding had no flavor. None the less - the lamb was good and I enjoyed this dish after some de-saucing. Despite the "reputation" for soups and sauces, the soup and sauces were without questions the biggest points of weakness in the meal.
My wife had the fried chicken - topped with a caramelized watermelon emulsion and served with watermelon jalepeno salad with a side of gruyere-infused grits. The chicken was breaded and fried perfectly, but again rendered disappointing by a sugar-sweet sauce. As an avid fan of cheese grits I was excited for this twist on the southern classic, but result was near flavorless and disappointing. Probably coloring my final opinion of the meal is also the fact that we both felt a touch ill afterwards - probably just too much sugar and heavy sauces.
The verdict? Franck's manages to harpoon truly well-prepared main courses with calamitous sides and sauces that overshadow the positive elements on the plate. I lump Franck's in with Log Haven as a joint that would have been among the best in SLC ten years ago but will struggle to find a place amongst the wave of talent that exists today in our city.