It wasn't meant to be a popularity contest, but Takashi, a sushi restaurant in Salt Lake City, was a favorite dining spots for several chefs.
Romina Rasmussen, pastry chef and owner of Les Madeleines loves to sit at the bar to watch the sushi being made. "I always have the torched black cod at the beginning and end of my meal. It's nickname is "Sex on Rice," and once you've had it, you know why. It's my absolute favorite. Otherwise, I usually let them choose my sashimi."
Adam Vickers, executive chef of Tuscany, says he prefers the tuna tartar stuffed shishito pepper. "The spice and the tuna go so well together." Or he lets chef/owner Takashi Gibo pick. "You always know you're in good hands when sitting in front of Takashi."
Ethan Lappe, chef/owner at Caffe Niche, recommends the seared sable fish. "This is a great introduction to sushi as it is seared with a blow torch."
When Takashi Gibo goes out to eat, he heads to South Salt Lake for soup at Del Mar al Lago. Born in Okinawa, Gibo lived in Peru until he was 12. He orders the chupe de camarones ($17), a shrimp soup with corn and poached egg, spiced with an aji amarillo sauce.
Maxine Turner, founder of Cuisine Unlimited Catering Co., couldn't pick just one favorite. For spur of the moment eats, she likes the lamb ribs appetizer at MacCool's Public House. "It isn't just the tangy sauce, it is that they slow roast so the meat is tender," she said. Turner also likes the ahi salad at Porcupine Pub & Grille, the saganaki (fried cheese) appetizer at Aristo's Greek Restaurant and Cafe and the lamb with spinach at Mazza.
Nathan Powers, executive chef at Bambara, praises Maxwell's East Coast Eatery for having good food and being kid-friendly. He likes the thin and greasy New York style pizzas. But also loves the buffalo chicken wings declaring them the best in Utah. Powers should know: He's from Buffalo where they were invented orders them wherever he goes. Served properly with cold celery sticks and good blue cheese, Maxwelll's wings are "in my top five wings coast to coast," he said.
Squatters chef Vicente Cardenas is a fan of La Frontera's. The chain of 10 Utah restaurants calls itself the home of the smothered burrito ($4-$5 a la carte), and Cardenas finds comfort in those little donkeys. He likes that they're homemade and thicker than most wraps.
Since Victoria Topham spends so much time in the Pinon Market & Cafe kitchen, the owner chef prefers eating at home, after picking up ingredients at Harmons Emigration Market, citing the butcher shop's affordable prices and fresh cuts. "I love their in-house ground beef burger patties. I particularly like the black pepper and blue cheese burger grilled medium rare. "
Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen has become a weekly stop for Alta Lodge Chef Sam Wolfe, who says the sandwiches are the "perfect combination of spicy, sweet and salty." His favorite is the lemongrass bean curd, served with caramelized onions, cucumber, cilantro, and pickled carrots on a crisp baguette. "Their spring rolls and Bun noodle plates are also home runs."
Sam Lubing, executive chef at Z'Tejas, is also an Oh Mai admirer, saying they have "hands down the most legit bowl of Pho you can get anywhere around here."
Ryker Brown, executive chef at Sundance Mountain Resort, can't pick the best dish at Talisker on Main, since the menu changes frequently. But that's also why he eats there. "The food is great, imaginative and flavorful."
La Caille's Brandon Howard heads to Kitty Pappas Steak House when he has time to eat out. "I do not think you can get a better dining experience," he said, adding that he seeks out the "wonderful, sweet-loving owner," Kitty, along with her fresh-baked cakes made from scratch.
When Eric May, executive chef at The Blue Boar Inn & Restaurant, craves Chinese food he orders the salt baked crab at the New Golden Dragon, calling the dish "delicious and moist, but a little work to eat," or the Pho at the South China House, where the staff always remembers he and his wife, Lita. "The summer and spring rolls are always fresh ... and [an] oriental market is right next door."
Grand America executive sous chef Fernando Soberanis highly recommends the Tacos Don Ramon at Red Iguana: Three crisp corn tortillas filled with sirloin tips and pork chorizo and garnished with shredded lettuce and queso cotija. Another favorite: Chicken Tikka Masala and onion naan at Bombay House.
Vincent Esposito, chef/owner of Spin Cafe, says the Hong Kong Tea House has him in its spell. He's a regular, even though he drives from Heber. "They can really cook they have the touch. Flavors are clean, vibrant and in balance. And the service, from the same three women for years now, makes us feel welcome," he said. For a first-timer, he suggests the steamed seabass with ginger for dinner and the Singapore style rice noodles at lunch.
Both Franck Peissel, executive chef at Franck's, and Dan Knopp, owner/operator of the Silver Fork Lodge, recommend Tsunami Restaurant & Sushi Bar.
Peissel, who lives near the Union Heights location and wishes he were Japanese, orders the T.N.T. Roll (tuna, scallions and albacore) for its sweet and spicy flavors.
Knopp likes Tsunami because its so different from the pastas and steaks he serves at Silver Fork. He says it's an "easy" place to dine at, even with his four children. They like to start with a tempura appetizer and then dig into a variety of rolls of which there are more than 50.
Robert Perkins, also of Franck's, tracks down a late-night taco cart for the tamales because the carts "do them the best. [There's] something about the unwrapping that little bundle of joy."
Where chefs eat
Aristo's Greek Restaurant and Cafe • 244 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City; 801-581-0888. Open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday, 4-9 p.m.
Bambara • 202 S. Main Street, Salt Lake City; 801-363-5454. Open for dinner Monday-Thursday, 5:30-10 pm., Friday-Saturday, 5:30-10:30 p.m., Sunday, 5:30-9 p.m.
Bombay House • 2731 Parleys Way, Salt Lake City; 801-581-0222; 7726 Campus View Dr., West Jordan; 801-282-0777; 463 North University Avenue, Provo, 801-373-6677. Open Monday-Saturday, 4-10 p.m.
Caffe Niche • 779 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City; 801-433-3380. Open Tuesday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Del Mar al Lago • 310 Bugatti Ave., South Salt Lake City; 801-467-2890. Open Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Finca • 1291 S. 1100 East, Salt Lake City, 801-487-0699. Open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Harmons Emigration Market • 1706 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-583-3663. Open Sunday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-10 p.m.
Hong Kong Tea House • 565 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City; 801-531-7010. Open Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Kitty Pappas Steak House • 2300 Highway 89, Woods Cross;801-295-9981. Open Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
La Frontera • various locations in Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Sandy, Tooele, Midvale, St. George and Roy. Open Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
MacCool's Public House • 1400 S. Foothill Blvd., Salt Lake City, 801-582-3111. Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m..; 855 W. Heritage Park Blvd., Layton; 801-728-9111. Open Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and 2510 Washington Blvd., Ogden; 801-675-5920. Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine • 912 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-521-4572. Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.; 1515 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City; 801-484-9259. Open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
New Golden Dragon • 1716 S. State Street, Salt Lake City; 801-487-9888. Open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwich Kitchen • 3425 S. State Street, Salt Lake City; 801-467-6882. Open Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; 6093 S. Highland Drive, Holladay; 801-277-9888. Open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
Pago • 878 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City; 801-532-0777. Open for lunch Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner Monday-Sunday, 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; brunch on weekends, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Porcupine Pub & Grille • 3698 E. Fort Union Blvd., Salt Lake City; 801-942-5555. Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturdays, 9:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Red Iguana • 735 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-322-1489 and 866 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-214-6050. Open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
South China House • 428 E 900 S, Salt Lake City; 801-364-9918. Open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Takashi • 18 W. Market Street, Salt Lake City, 801-519-9595. Open for lunch Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; for dinner Monday-Thursday, 5:30-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5:30-11 p.m.
Talisker on Main • 515 Main Street, Park City; 435-658-5479. Open 5:30 p.m.
Tsunami Restaurant & Sushi Bar • 7628 S. Union Park Ave., Midvale; 801-676-6466. Open Open Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 5-9 p.m.; 2223 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City; 801-467-5545. Open Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 5-9 p.m.; 10722 River Front Parkway, South Jordan; 801-748-1178. Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 5-9 p.m.