1458 Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City ; 801-582-1400
Continental cuisine lives within an olde English setting.
Hours: Th, 6 p.m. to close; F-S, 5:30 p.m. to close
Liquor: Full Service
Recommended Dishes: Chicken Kiev, filet Oscar.
June 20, 2007
Ye olde mediocre restaurant
By Mary Brown Malouf
I didn't grow up in Salt Lake City, so I don't share the misty-eyed, corsage-scented prom-night memories of the restaurant called Five Alls on Foothill Boulevard. I had never heard of the famous Five Alls until my editor suggested the Salt Lake City institution needed a review update.
I had no idea, either, what "five alls" meant. Turns out "five alls" is a traditional -- as in "ye olde" -- British public house sign depicting five men with a motto underneath each. The first, the king, has the motto of "I govern all;" the second, a bishop, says, "I pray for all;" a lawyer, "I plead for all;" a soldier, "I fight for all;" and a poor countryman with his scythe and rake, "I pay for all."
Hardy-har-har. This is British humor worthy of late-night PBS, especially when you realize the "alls" is also a pun on another olde term, alls, which referred to tap-droppings, that is, the remains of all sorts of spirits drained from the glasses then sold in gin joints for cheap.
You may have guessed that Five Alls, Salt Lake, is something of a period piece, but the period -- as you understand the minute you see "Filet Oscar" on the menu -- is not 18th century England. Rather, it is circa 1960s, the pre-Julia Child era when the apex of American dining was something called "continental cuisine," a name that referred to no particular continent, but to a place whose cuisine was invented by professional chefs in hotels and cruise ships all over the world and tends to involve expensive proteins and heavy sauces.
Our waitress, an efficient, hash-house type costumed like a serving wench, dealt out the menus and gave us her rote spiel as soon as we were seated: "Have-you-ever-eaten-at-Five-Alls-if-not-you're-in-for-a-treat-we-offer-five-courses-for-one-price-you-look-over-the-menu-while-I-get-your-first-course."
And, in a jiffy, she was back with the kitchen's all-purpose appetizers. The three tiny meatballs, one for each of us, looked suspiciously like school cafeteria meatballs, slimy outside and mushy within, and our suspicions were confirmed. The other appetizer was clam dip served with miniature bread sticks as soft and white as grubs.
The meatballs, along with your choice of fresh fruit or soup and a salad, are included in the price of your entree. So, before he dug into an amazingly chewy lobster tail ($48), my friend had a dish of strawberries (instead of the alternative, cream of spinach soup) and a cold iceberg lettuce salad.
Another dining companion, who ordered beef Oscar ($38) -- a soft piece of beef, topped with shredded crab, resting on overcooked asparagus and drowned in béarnaise -- opted for an upgrade and for an extra $7, was served a dish of creamed herring instead of fruit. With my alleged "boneless" chicken Kiev ($25), I ordered the shrimp cocktail for another $7 and got six 24-26-count crustaceans with the usual red sauce.
I put the quotation marks around "boneless," by the way, just because it's such an amazingly redundant descriptor. Chicken Kiev is a classic of continental cuisine. It is prepared by pounding a chicken breast into a thin sheet of meat that is wrapped around a chilled lump of seasoned butter. Then the whole thing is fried. Ideally -- and traditionally -- when your server ceremoniously cuts into your chicken breast, a tiny geyser of melted butter spurts out dramatically.
Obviously, you could never make this dish properly if you left the bones in the chicken. So if I were a real dining sleuth, I would have known better than to expect real chicken Kiev from the Five Alls menu description. I would have expected what I got, which was half a boneless breast of fried chicken. For those who remember continental cuisine at all, I hardly need to add that the chicken came with wild rice.
Plenty of tables around us were eating happily and I can only assume that's because fond memories dull the taste buds.
Along with our Bill of Fare, written in faux olde Englyshe, came a Bill of Grog that included a list of "mocktails" -- virgin margaritas and daiquiris and such -- along with the usual mixed drinks, beers and wines.
I don't remember ever seeing such a thing on a fine dining menu before. Then again, I don't remember seeing wines offered in "fifths" or the last time I saw Liebfraumilch's Blue Nun ($20) on a wine list.
But that's the life of a restaurant critic.
I am the sixth all; I eat for all.
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.
August 28, 1998
Traditionalists Will Love The Saucy Five Alls
By Anne Wilson
If you haven't visited the Five Alls in a while, even a long while, you didn't miss much: Little has changed at this Salt Lake dining institution in two decades. Some people may find that comforting. Others will feel they have fallen into an Olde English time warp or (worse) that they have turned into their parents. With its dark interior, pewter-style dinnerware and costumed servers, the Five Alls is a throwback to another era, when fat was not a bad word and people celebrated special occasions with a rare steak and a straight-up martini, shaken not stirred.
If you are looking for culinary innovation, don't look here. The Five Alls menu is mired in tradition and rich sauces, in a few cases even to the drowning point. But it's quiet, the service is polished and there is no chance you will go away hungry.
Five Alls is unusual, in that it is among a dwindling number of restaurants offering complete dinners. Two longtime Salt Lake restaurants known for their disdain of a la carte, Finn's and Ristorante Della Fontana, closed earlier this year.
At Five Alls, the entree price includes an appetizer, first course, salad, main course, beverage and dessert. It's a lot of food, but here's the rub: Your choices are limited. An a la carte menu gives diners more control, and not necessarily at a higher cost. Entree prices at Five Alls range from $17 (wienerschnitzel cordon bleu) to $45 (lobster).
Here's what comes with your entree: an appetizer course of meatballs (one per diner), a thick clam dip with bread sticks and a drink called banana shrub (the restaurant will not divulge its secret ingredients). The first course is soup or fresh fruit, followed by a salad with your choice of dressing. Main courses come with bread, choice of baked potato, french fries or blended wild rice, and a vegetable.
The meatballs were tender and slightly spicy, but the clam dip tasted little of clams. The shrub was a tart, slightly fizzy drink, if you like that sort of thing.
The first course was a choice between French onion soup, which had a rich, beefy broth and a fair amount of melting cheese, and fresh strawberries. The berries looked as if they had been sitting in the pewter cup for a couple of hours and were not too happy to be there in the first place. The salads were bowls of chopped lettuce, with too much dressing.
A delicious hollandaise, and not too much of it, appeared on the green beans that came with the Filet Oscar ($32). The steak is a filet mignon dressed with crab, asparagus and bernaise sauce. It was tender, cooked to order and the asparagus was fresh.
The halibut fillet ($21) was also fresh, draped with hollandaise sauce and sprinkled with toasted almonds. It was a generous portion, moist and flaky.
Finally, dessert. If you can stand one more rich dish, try the cheesecake. It's creamy, but not as dense as some, and true to the Five Alls theme, sauced with raspberries.