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Park City • By the time the rotisserie chicken ($17) arrived at our table at Easy Street Brasserie, I was fed up. Our appetizers, such as the tough calamari ($12), hadn't been extraordinary, and for some reason they were delivered at a lukewarm temperature, even though we were sitting right by the exposed kitchen.
Ditto for the tantalizing-sounding blue cheese fondue ($12). It was barely tepid, miraculously liquid thanks to a low percentage of actual blue cheese and surplus of bland milk, the cheesy sauce a taste insult to the cubes of tender, well-seasoned steak that accompanied it. The bone-dry toast points crumbled beneath the tiny tines of the fondue forks.
Then the chicken came out. From what we could tell, it was indeed hot. In fact, it looked rather good, glistening with a bit of jus and mounds of vegetables on the side. The problem? The dish wasn't what my companion, the vegetarian in our group, had ordered.
It's the time of year where my inbox gets inundated with people asking where to eat when they come to ski or attend the Sundance Film Festival. The answer is never as simple as the question might suggest. And Easy Street Brasserie encompasses everything that frustrates me with Park City dining unjustifiably expensive, inconsistent quality, spotty service and inexplicably crowded.
To be fair, the restaurant business isn't an easy game. And in the winter, that's the season when Park City restaurateurs can actually earn a living. Menu prices go up, and a lot of out-of-towners show up to eat.
I've been to my share of Sundance gatherings, meet-ups with visiting friends who insist on dining on Main Street. The premium gives them bragging rights, status, and a chance to people watch in hopes of catching a glimpse of a gaunt-looking Gwyneth Paltrow poking at her plate.
At least, that's the story one jet-setting friend told me. He was elated about seeing the gamine actress with her Coldplay husband at Easy Street during Sundance. "How was the food?" I asked. He shrugged his shoulders. "I've had better."
He's right. I've had better, too, at a handful of other venues in the area.
Easy Street Brasserie, after closing for renovations, has re-opened as part of the dining establishment for the newish Sky Lodge hotel. Perhaps being a hotel restaurant, open for all three meals seven days a week, doesn't help with overall food quality. Just look at the Little America.
The tone of the menu is French. There were flabby mussels ($15-$25) and bland steak frites ($25-$36). The French onion soup ($8) was decent enough, served piping hot in a ceramic crock, crowned with a thick crust of melted cheese and an island of broth-soaked bread. Too bad the cheese was mostly elastic, tasteless provolone rather than hefty and flavorful Gruyère.
Along with serving temperature, seasoning was the major food issue. In an otherwise acceptable braised short rib meltingly tender, and ample in a Flintstone's sort of way the beef was as tasty as boiled water. "How do you braise out flavor?" my meat-loving friend asked.
Apologetically, I offered him a bit of my croque Monsieur ($9). The crustless bread was toasted nicely, although it seemed more of a glorified ham sandwich with all the gooey bits in the middle, than the classic French hot sandwich topped with a layer of cheesy béchamel and toasted to a golden bubbling brown.
It had the same effect as the sundried tomato "tarte flambée" ($10), which the menu explained as Alsatian pizza. In size and taste it was nothing more than a personal cheese pizza likely to be enjoyed by children. Actually, it was, at another table where an extended family had scattered crayons among the wine glasses.
Service is a hard thing to dial-in on our home turf, particularly in Park City, where for every one good server there are at least a dozen who seem to be counting down the hours until the ski lifts open.
At Easy Street, servers were affable, polite, but distracted and distracting. While waiting for a water refill, we realized our proximity to the kitchen gave us an unwanted vantage point courtside seats to a confused service team, wondering aloud to each other whose entrées were whose, why the appetizer for one table was missing or whether another server had mistakenly taken a plate.
One of my dining companions witnessed the life span of a braised lamb shank ($32) that sat lonely under the heat lamps. My companion announced when it was finally whisked away another shank had been completed finally and both, old and new plates, were taken to the table. The stately French dining rooms seem a bit incongruous to Park City's laid-back mountain town conviviality, but then again, restaurants are good at making you feel like you're in a completely different place than where you actually are. The only thing that wasn't hermetically sealed was the front door which, whenever a party arrived, managed to channel a gust of frigid air to our table in the middle of the dining room.
The atmosphere and service seem more in line downstairs at Bar Boheme, where the live piano music and the drinks are far more honest and enjoyable. Desserts, too, are a high point. All of them are made in-house, meaning pretty good vanilla ice cream with the IBC root beer in a frosty mug float ($8) and a strawberry shortcake ($10) with a tender cake and frozen berry medley.
And yes, in the bar the people-watching is good, too.
Easy Street Brasserie
Food • H
Mood • HHhj
Service • HH
Noise • bbb
Mussels, pommes frites and a Francophile décor signal French "brasserie." Service is amiable, if distracted, as are most dishes. House-made desserts are the surest bets, such as the bananas Foster bread pudding, brownie sundae and chocolate soufflé.
Location • 201 Heber Ave. (Main Street), Park City; 435-658-9425
Hours • Monday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to close (last seating at 9:30 p.m.)
Children's menu • Yes
Prices • $$$
Liquor • Full service
Corkage • $15
Reservations • Accepted
Takeout • No
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking • valet at Sky Lodge
Credit cards • All major