This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
While Salt Lake is home to many Greek restaurants, most of them fall more into the fast-casual realm instead of fine-dining fare. Manoli's on 9th aims to broaden that scope.
Owner and chef Manoli Katsanevas grew up in the restaurant business. His family owns Crown Burger, and he began working there at age 13 washing dishes and busing tables. He went on to get his culinary degree from Salt Lake Community College and then worked in some of Salt Lake's finest kitchens, including Fresco and Caffe Niche, where he says he really came to love the farm-to-table movement. He and his wife, Katrina Cutrubus, began Manoli's Catering based on opportunity, but they knew they eventually wanted to open a restaurant. Together, they launched Manoli's in September 2015 near Liberty Park.
Manoli's is built around the small plates or "meze" concept and offers vegetarian, seafood and meat selections in addition to salads, larger main courses, sides and dessert.
"We believe a small plates menu allows customers a greater variety and an elevated sense of community through sharing," the restaurant's website explains, and it's played out in the execution of the meal. My first experience at Manoli's was with a group of a dozen women. We made our way through the entire menu save a few dishes sharing, laughing and drinking as we went just the experience I believe they envisioned.
But the restaurant is no less accommodating to intimate evenings for two or couples catching up over a glass of Greek wine and the lamb belly sliders (arni psito, $12), which literally drip with fatty goodness, in addition to a smoked feta spread paired with tangy pickled cucumber.
Diners can sit at the kitchen counter and watch the chefs prepare pan-seared branzino (psari psito, market price) on the line or enjoy more traditional restaurant seating that affords a view of the open kitchen or surrounding neighborhood.
Portions on many of the dishes are generous and ideal for sharing. The seemingly endless bowl of shaved Brussels sprout salad (lahanakia, $10) with candied bacon and dried apricots was excellent as leftovers the next day, but we immediately devoured the creamy three-cheese orzo (krytharaki, $9) loaded with white cheddar, parmesan and feta, which warmed us up on a cold winter evening.
Some Greek staples such as dolmathes ($8) get a little change up here with rice I found spicier and filled with more tomato than most I've had.
Spanish-influenced piquillo peppers (yemista, $8) stuffed with a creamy smoked feta and black sea salt took me straight back to the cafes of Barcelona, while we ventured seaside enjoying the grilled shrimp on a toasted baguette (garides, $11) with plenty of pungent garlic aioli and paprika oil.
More seafood arrived in the form of seared scallops (htenia, $12), which were perfectly cooked. The meaty mollusks sit atop a tangy yellow split pea puree dressed with a citrus-ouzo vinaigrette and fresh micro greens.
My biggest disappointment at Manoli's was the octopus (htapodi, $17) which is, by far, one of my favorite dishes of all time. Grilled for far too long, the small portion of arms arrived charred and nearly crunchy over a bland Idaho Zürsun bean salad that didn't tie the overpriced dish together well.
Redemption came in the form of creative and fun food presentation pastitsio croquette ($10), rounds of spiced beef and béchamel that were secured to the plate with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
While most of the meze are savory, we were delighted with the slightly sweet kolokithopita ($9), which surprised us as we broke through the honey-drizzled crispy phyllo triangles to find a creamy mixture of warm butternut squash and goat cheese.
For dessert, end with pillowy bites of the traditional Greek doughnut loukoumathes ($7), finished with spiced honey syrup and sesame seeds.
Manoli's has not yet opened for lunch, although Katsanevas says it will in time. For now, a weekend brunch menu delivers some crossover items from the dinner menu, with plenty of new dishes to try as well. Familiar breakfast selections, such as biscuits and gravy ($13) and eggs Benedict ($13), happily live alongside citrus ouzo-cured salmon dako ($13), with a green olive relish and whipped myzithra cheese, and the Welsh rarebit ($9) with cheddar beer spread and Worcestershire topped with two over-easy eggs.
The focus on quality and, whenever possible, local ingredients is evident in everything at Manoli's even the 100 percent Utah beer and hard cider list or the cocktail menu featuring Beehive Distilling gin, High West whiskey and Sugar House Distillery vodka. Just be sure to make a reservation in order to enjoy it all, as it's not unusual to see every seat in the house filled even on weeknights.
Heather L. King also writes for http://www.theutahreview.com and can be found on social media @slclunches
Food • HHH
Mood • HHH
Service • HHH
Noise • bb
Manoli's on 9th dishes up high-end Greek cuisine in the form of small plate "meze" with thoughtful preparations and quality ingredients.
Location • 402 E. 900 South, #2, Salt Lake City; 801-532-3760
Online • ww.manolison9th.com
Hours • Open Tuesday through Sunday, 5 to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Monday.
Children's menu • No
Prices • $-$$
Liquor • Yes
Corkage • $15
Reservations • Yes
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • Yes
On-site parking • No
Credit cards • Yes