First Look :: Pallet

When a new restaurant opens in Salt Lake City, it’s always an exciting gamble.  Will the food be good?  What sort of restaurant niche will it fill–a special occasion spot, a neighborhood joint, a pre-symphony or post-bar place?  What will the vibe be and will it appeal to others?  All of those questions were fresh in my mind as I tried the newly opened restaurant, Pallet, last week.

Pallet’s charming exterior.

Pallet, on 237 South and 400 West next to The Rose Establishment coffee shop, has been making a quiet stir in the Salt Lake City food world lately.  The building that the coffee shop and restaurant share is a gem that, until the Rose Establishment opened over a year ago, was easily overlooked.  Pallet has created an incredibly cozy atmosphere in the tiny space; the exposed brick walls and high ceilings are beautiful in its simplicity.  A row of wood tables lines one wall adorned with a pillow-clad bench on one side and chairs on the other.  One large table near the window is even fitted with a couch instead of chairs.  The walls are embellished with paintings, the lighting is dim and relaxing and casual popular music (like Adele) played in the background.  Definitely neighborhoody, but also welcoming to those of us not living within walking distance.

Tuna tartar appetizer at Pallet.

I fell in love with the atmosphere right away, which led me to wonder if the food would be compromising.  More than half of the menu consisted of appetizers, ranging from bison sausage, meatballs, beet salad and truffle fries, so the possibility of building a meal of small plates was an option.  We started with the tuna appetizer ($12), a trio of tuna tartar chunks atop different accoutrements that the chef recommended be eaten from one end to the other, starting with tuna on a salty chick pea-like salad, tuna on a crystallized blood orange slice and ending with tuna on a sweet tomato-like jam.

Sauteed scallop entree at Pallet.

I ordered the scallops ($24), a group of small scallops alongside mushrooms, sauteed cauliflower (one of my favorite dishes to make at home) and mashed potatoes topped with strips of scallions.  The flavors weren’t abstract or unexpected, but were executed well enough to have me impressed.

Creamy leek soup and pear/gorgonzola salad at Pallet.

My friend ordered the soup of the day ($6), a creamy leek soup with a decoration of bacon and red peppers, and the pear and gorgonzola salad ($7).  The soup was deliciously rich with a hint of bacon flavor.  The salad, although amazing, was predictable as there isn’t much variation that can be done with it.

Epic Beer chocolate cake at Pallet.

The portions, which I only saw from my scallop dish, were on the small side.  While that can be considered a negative, I think it provides an opportunity to order an appetizer or a dessert with the entree.  The dessert menu has several items drool-worthy enough to leave room for, like fruit tarts, a marshmallow dish and our pick, Epic beer chocolate cake ($7).  We couldn’t pinpoint any beer taste, but the cake was a rich chocolate almost as intense as a brownie, served warm with a fluffy cloud of cream on top and a blood orange swipe on the side.  Paired with a glass of pinot, it was a perfect way to end the meal.

Pallet is a wonderful addition to the west side of downtown.  The food was full of familiar flavors that seemed rather predictable, but the familiarity enhanced the coziness of the restaurant’s atmosphere.  Overall, Pallet felt like having dinner at a good friend’s home.  The whole night I tried to find negatives, but in the end really couldn’t.  While I usually don’t judge a brand new restaurant too harshly one direction or the other, I’m shocked to be so impressed by a restaurant with only a week of service under its belt.  I just hope it wasn’t beginner’s luck and that my next time–which I am already anxious for–will be equally as good.

Pallet on Urbanspoon

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