Downtown Salt Lake City feels more and more like a big city to me every day. Like a real big city, not just our excuse for a big city. The most recent installment of my regularly-occurring I heart my city thoughts was visiting Bistro 222. There was something about parking along Main Street, walking past people rushing to their own after-work destinations and meeting a group of girlfriends for dinner at the new restaurant that felt very big city to me, even though I eat at downtown restaurants all the time.
Bistro 222 anchors the bottom floor of the 222 Main building, one of the newest additions to Salt Lake City’s skyline. The restaurant’s large windows show off the bustling traffic outside, both foot- and car-based, and neighboring buildings, reminding me of Luce in San Francisco. The decor is modern but cozy, classy yet casual, with an open kitchen at the back of the space.
The menu offers a sporadic range of options, from seafood-based pastas and creative pizzas to prime sirloin steaks and pork belly burgers, hinting that the focus of their cuisine is a bit Italian-American. Whatever it is, everyone in your party will find something they like. The wine list covers a wide variety of choices at reasonable prices, although by-the-glass options are limited.
We started with Calamari ($9) with avocado and wasabi-yuzu aioli, with breading so light it barely added in texture, allowing the flavor of the calamari to stand out. We also had the Mushroom Bruschetta ($8), country bread topped with crimini and oyster mushrooms, house ricotta and tomato-herb jam, all of which came together to create a really flavorful symphony of tastes. Both were really enjoyable.
Then came the Chicken Liver Pâté ($8), served with toasted country bread and pickled raisins, a nice balance of sweet and saltiness that was sensationally addicting. Even the anti-pâté fans at the table liked it.
I ordered the Pan Seared Scallops ($23) with fall vegetable succotash, popcorn grits and a bacon dressing. The scallops were beautifully carmellized with an ever-so-slightly sugary edge and juicy centers while the corn was fresh and bright. I liked the addition of brussel sprout leaves and fennel for added hits of texture. It was well-balanced, flavorful but not trying too hard.
Others at the table ordered the Roasted Beet Gnocchi ($17) with brown butter, brussel sprouts, feta, mushrooms and pecans, a delicious balance of richness and sweetness; the Short Rib Lasagna ($19) with pomodoro and house-made ricotta and mozzarella, a savory and heavy take on the classic; and the Saffron Pappardelle ($19) with scallops, clams, sea bass, spicy tomato broth, a deliciously spicy medley of seafood flavors.
The desserts change nightly and thanks to the manager, Miles, we were able to try all three. The Chocolate Cake with Caramel Ice Cream and Toffee Popcorn ($8) was deeply rich, bursting with intense caramel flavors offset with crunchy popcorn. I was glad the table shared it because it only took a few bites to be satisfied with this one!
The Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake with Berry Gelée was also rich, but with more subtly on the sweetness and slightly lighter, with a hint of berry—just like I like it! Somehow it was refreshing, but maybe only in comparison with the chocolate. This was my favorite. And lastly, we had the Chocolate Pot de Creme, the obviously lightest and simplest option of the three. This is the one to order if you are in dire need of dessert but don’t really have room for it. Just enough for a flavor of chocolate.
Bistro 222 won me over with its cuisine, urban atmosphere and incredible service. I’m anxious to see how the seasonally-changing menu will evolve throughout the year. They also cater to the downtown working crowd with an express lunch (sandwiches and salads under $10) and a sit-down lunch; both will be fun to try during the workweek.
Go to Bistro 222 for :: a casual, cozy dinner after work or a quick lunch during the day. Notes :: Open seven days a week; Monday-Thursday 11 am-9 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-10 pm and Sunday 11 am- 9 pm, including Sunday brunch. Reservations are available online via OpenTable. Friend Bistro 222 on Facebook here.