Tiburon Fine Dining
8256 S. 700 East, Sandy ; 801-255-1200
The restaurant should live up to its name and upgrade its glasses, dishes and plate presentations. Spot-on service, commendable wine list.
Cuisine: Eclectic, American
Hours: Open nightly, 5-10 p.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Recommended Dishes: Elk and lamb entrees, cucumber salad.
May 14, 2008
Chintzy dinnerware, over-sauced entrees temper high expectations
By Lesli J. Neilson
SANDY -- I want to like Tiburon Fine Dining. I truly do. I went with friends who had only great things to say about the 9-year-old restaurant. After dining there, I am conflicted. While there were some good things about my experience, there also were problems.
When The Tribune last visited in 2004, halibut was $26; now it is $33. The house-specialty elk was $34; now it is $39. Granted, entrées come with bread, a small salad and a palate-cleansing sorbet such as raspberry-lemon, but still.
With those steep prices and "fine dining" in the restaurant's name come certain expectations. They include high-end stemware and dishes, elegant surroundings and spot-on service. While I can compliment the staff for its professionalism and friendliness, I cannot accept the thick-lipped glassware and some dinnerware that looks chintzy.
As for the space, lightly stained wainscoting, natural flagstone on some walls and torch-shaped sconces are nice touches, but the low-ceilinged place still feels like its previous incarnation as a casual Italian restaurant.
In addition to the halibut and elk entrees there is beef, ahi tuna, duck and lamb. The beef tenderloin ($34), with sauteed mushrooms and garlic mashed potatoes, and the lamb -- numerous itty-bitty delicious tenderloins encircling a lovely risotto cake -- were excellent. The duck? Not so much. The poor fowl ($32) was drowning under a sweet cherry demi-glace that had to be scraped off to find the meat. The same heavy hand over-sauced other dishes throughout the evening.
Every entree and four of five starters are either meat or fish. What's a vegetarian to do? The sole non-meat appetizer was a wheel of baked camembert ($10) under caramelized balsamic onions and toasted almonds. It would have been better without the balsamic.
If you prefer shellfish, seared scallops ($14) were four slightly seared ping-pong-ball-sized bivalves with a pool of fresh tomato cream sauce spiked with spicy chipotle. A pair of decent crab cakes ($12) came with a knockout salad of cucumber, feta, capers, red onion and strips of red and yellow bell peppers.
Plates arrived with squiggles and flecks of parsley, lemon zest or powdered sugar around the plate rim. That powdered sugar became dangerous when my dining companion inadvertently inhaled it. The kitchen would be better off treating a plate rim as a frame with the food as the focal point.
Fortunately, the restaurant puts an emphasis on its wine program. There are several interesting and reasonably priced varietals to choose from, including some unique Italian wines such as an inky 2005 Morgante Nero D'Avola from Sicily ($36).
Sips of that wine livened up an uninspired dark chocolate mousse (all desserts, $7). Crème brulée was a bit better and the New York-style cheesecake came from . . . The Cheesecake Factory. Like I said, I want to like Tiburon. But with "fine dining" come certain expectations.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.
November 5, 2004
By Nancy Hobbs
Tiburon is like a classy tuxedo, dressed up in stark black and white, just waiting to impart its elegant appointments on each evening's dinner guests. There are the doubled black-over-white tablecloths paired with bright white cloth napkins; flawless servers dressed top-to-toe in black attire; and crisp white, heavy stock menus. Walls, with the exception of one bright swath of red, are white and studded with framed pieces of artwork. The chairs, not surprisingly, are contemporary and black.
Little middle ground is found in the food, as well. Everything from the irresistible veggie-flecked honey-butter to creamy garlic mashed potatoes -- with elk and ahi and beef tenderloin filling the menu's starring roles -- fits clearly and comfortably within the "fine dining" subtitle to Tiburon's name.
Owners Ken and Valerie Rose opened their restaurant five years ago. Initially the intent was an Italian diner, but Ken, a veteran waiter and self-trained chef, decided he didn't want to be bound by artificial parameters. Instead, they went with a more contemporary name, taken from the quaint community across the bay from San Francisco, and created a fittingly eclectic menu with a nice wine selection to match.
The challenge was making it work on the outskirts of Sandy, which isn't known for a profusion of high-class restaurants, and whose residents seem to prefer the numerous chain eateries surrounding area malls.
But since their beginning, the Roses have enjoyed a loyal clientele, many of whom followed Ken from the well-regarded Pomodoro restaurant, where he worked for several years as head waiter. Additional restaurant experience, beginning as a dishwasher at age 16 and including cooking stints with Red Robin and at the Yosemite National Park dining facilities, helped prepare him for the new undertaking.
As Tiburon's popularity has grown, largely through word of mouth, the Roses have increased staff, adding some of the talented cooks and waiters Ken worked with at the former Pomodoro. The restaurant is now open seven nights a week, and the original staff of four has more than tripled to accommodate frequent full houses, which in this small restaurant is about a dozen tables.
In summer, the patio makes way for a few more tables, but to maintain the high quality of their dinners, Ken says, the restaurant will stay small. Reservations are always recommended, especially because some groups that have been dining at Tiburon for years reserve the entire restaurant for an evening.
Even on those busiest nights, Tiburon is braced for a run on its house specialty: a char-grilled New Zealand elk tenderloin ($34), cooked on the rare side and topped with a delicious green peppercorn gravy. It is served with a perfect "duxelle," a mix of mushrooms and shallots in a rich, luscious cream sauce.
Almost as popular is the thick Alaskan halibut fillet cooked with a crunchy sweet coating of coconut and -- you don't see this often on a menu -- toasted Brazil nuts. "I love them," Rose says of the intriguing choice. "That's why they're there."
A topping of pineapple salsa finishes the dish, at $26, with a pleasant freshness.
The Tiburon menu also includes an irresistible seared ahi tuna with a honey-soy relish of shredded carrots, a tender char-grilled filet mignon with a delectable Cabernet and roasted shallot sauce, and a couple of pasta dishes that are nothing short of terrific. The Tiburon linguine is a medley of large shrimp, spicy Colosimo sausage and tender chicken with a garlicky pomodoro sauce made with chunks of fresh red tomatoes and roasted red peppers ($23). The meat-free penne ($20) is tossed with lots of sautéed mushrooms and a rich Asiago and sherry cream sauce, topped off with large grilled portobello mushroom cap.
The entrée prices, though high, are cushioned by the fact that everything is not priced a la carte. Each meal starts with an attractive salad of baby greens, tart apple slices and candied walnuts, dressed with a delicious roasted shallot-basil-balsamic vinaigrette, which in turn is followed by a palate-cleansing, homemade fruit sorbet.
Tiburon offers full liquor service and a lengthy wine list, in addition to a selection of "reserve" wines displayed in a glass cabinet the Roses had built into the restaurant after the latest rewrite of the state's liquor laws. Restaurants with liquor licenses are now able to "display" the bar. The impressive cabinet and selection add yet another element of class to this thriving restaurant.