1637 Short Line Drive, Park City ; 435-649-8181
With a fiercely loyal clientele of seasonal residents, this Park City veteran has great service and consistently good food.
Cuisine: American, Eclectic
Hours: Th-M, 6 p.m. to close; Dec.-March, open nightly
Liquor: Full Service
Corkage: $ 15
Recommended Dishes: Beef tenderloin, hanger steak, rack of lamb and crème brulée.
July 25, 2007
Chez Magnifique: Fantastic food, unpretentious ambience come together
By Vanessa Chang
PARK CITY -- "I'm gonna use my fingers for this lamb chop," my friend announced to the server. He was gripping a juicy, ruby piece with his thumb and index finger. The tone of his voice was part declaration and part schoolboy dare. Our server smiled approvingly. "That's exactly what we like to see here," he said. And with that my friend unapologetically dug into the succulent meat, getting all the lovely, caramelized bits hugging the bone.
Perhaps at any other restaurant, especially in Park City, he would've been too self-conscious to entertain the thought, let alone declare it to a server. But we were at Chez Betty, where the unpretentious, yet professional vibe is as refreshing as air conditioning on a sweltering day.
It has a fiercely loyal clientele of seasonal residents who look forward to smoked salmon ravioli when visiting their Deer Valley home and locals who savor the beef tenderloin when escaping the Salt Lake valley haze.
The spot-on service is just one of Chez Betty's charms. Servers here are pros: Between fun banter and good advice, they seamlessly decrumb the table, reset place settings for entrées and keep water glasses full. Many of them have been with the restaurant since owners -- and brothers -- Executive Chef Jerry Garcia and General Manager Tom Bell set up shop on the first floor of the Copperbottom Inn in 1991.
Bell oversees the impressive service team and manifests his passion for wine in an equally superb wine list. By-the-glass options are varied and plentiful. Bottles by the region help indecisive diners decide whether they want Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon with that rack of lamb.
When it comes to décor, some may find it cozy. Others may find it bland. This isn't scenester territory with a techno music soundtrack or moldings of galvanized steel. Rather, a low ceiling punctuated with recessed lighting, walls in warm, buttery hues and piped-in Muzak give the dining room an almost homey feel. A fan of Chez Betty once admitted that the ambience wasn't her thing. "But the food," she assured, "is fantastic."
The four-course chef's tasting menu ($52; $72 with wine pairings), featuring dishes such as fragrant Asian gazpacho or blue crab salad with fiddlehead ferns and À la carte items such as basil pesto-saturated panzanella salad ($14.50) and a special soup of velvety vichyssoise ($9.50), displays an acknowledgment of the seasons.
Only when the menu strays from straightforward does it lose its appeal. A mild, but perfectly cooked, fillet of Atlantic salmon gets lost in a jungle of pickled ginger, hoisin sauce and wasabi mashed potatoes ($29; $15.50 petite portion). Dry pork tenderloin in a pepita crust ($31; $16 petite portion) was rescued by a hearty poblano, yam and goat cheese chimichanga. The fried mini-burrito made a sequel appearance in the house vegetable plate alongside whole-grain mustard-kissed cauliflower florets, green beans and baby carrots (cooked barely al dente) and mashed potatoes topped with sautéed greens. Good, sure. But for the $23 price tag, I would've liked an extra helping of originality to gussy up the same vegetables I saw on my companions' plates.
You really develop a love for Chez Betty in its entrées. And I'll quote the brilliant Homer Simpson for a guiding rule: "Meat, good." Red meat, in particular. Beef tenderloin ($34) lives up to its name -- a filet perched atop a crispy potato cake that smelled blissfully of bacon fat. And the onion demi-glace hardly ruined the crunch of a garnish of fried onions.
Hanger steak ($29) rarely gets any play on local menus. But when the kitchen expertly grills it, slices it, stacks it with sweet onion jam and serves it atop mushroom-brie bruschetta, I'm glad it's on Chez Betty's.
And, of course, that rack of lamb ($38; $20 half-rack). It hails from New Zealand, pleasing mild-meat lovers. But it'll leave other lamb aficionados lusting for more earthy overtones of Colorado and Utah lamb.
Being full at the end of a meal won't be the problem. Making room for desserts just might. But it would be a mistake to miss out on the crème brulée ($9). A shallow pool of ethereal, vanilla bean-flecked custard topped with amber-hued burnt sugar will have dessert cynics believing again in classic simplicity. I think it's the best in the state.
But if you insist on some presence of fruit, the strawberry sorbet shortcake ($9) is a fine option. The ripe berry's sorbet and compote render it refreshing. Crème anglaise and the crème chantilly make it luxurious.
Being the caffeine fiend that I am, I have to love a place that devotes half the dessert menu to coffee, including tasting notes you'd usually find in Wine Spectator. A French press ($9.50) of bittersweet Mocca Java or buttery Sumatra, among others, arrives with an hourglass timed for perfect brewing.
We finished a bottle of 2003 Altamura Sangiovese, gnawed off the last bits of the rack of lamb and licked the crème br lée dish clean. We were full and completely at ease. And in the dining room, that's exactly what I like to see.
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.