MiniReview: Franck's - Salt Lake City, Utah

6263 Holladay Blvd
Holladay, UT 85712
This is a MiniReview - we had a special meal service with wine pairings for a local wine club, Wasatch Mountain Food and Wine Society, so we can rate the restaurant, but the food, price, service, and ambiance are not typical of a normal restaurant visit. Servers brought out each course to every table in platoon fashion, so there was not much possibility of personal service for this type of event. Wine prices listed are what is charged by Utah State Liquor Stores, the only available source to law-abiding citizens in this backward state, and of interest only to them...

Date of Visit: Sunday, May 4, 2008
Time: Dinner - 7:30 PM
Waitpersons - entire staff
Number of Diners: 6 - 50

Food Quality: 8.5
Service: 6*
Ambiance: 7

*The banquet-style service precluded a true rating of the front-of-house staff.

What We had with menu descriptions...

Burgundy Wine Dinner
Award-winning chef Franck Peissel (Salt Lake Best Chef 2007, Taste of the Nation People’s Choice 2007) has prepared an outstanding menu for our group. His cuisine is “American on the surface, but very French on closer inspection." The 2005 Burgundy vintage has received rave reviews and Franck has devised a tasting menu that highly complements the wines from this great region. The combination of great wines and food is assured to make this one of our group’s best events.

Appetizers: Mushroom tart, escargot on a shell
Kir with 2006 Bouzeron Aligote, Domaine de Villaine ($26.75)

First course: Mussels with a beurre blanc sauce
2005 Chablis, Domaine de Vaudon, Joseph Drouhin ($21.70)

Second course: Hawaiian sea bass in an amaretto sauce
2005 Meursault, Matrot ($28.22)

Third course: Short ribs in a mushroom and truffle sauce
2005 Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Nicolas Potel ($18.87)

Fourth course: Medley of quail and duck in a Madeira sauce
2005 Nuits-Saint-George, Nicolas Potel ($46.99)

Dessert: Pear tarten with rosemary ice cream
2002 Chateau Rieussac Sauternes (half bottle $42.79)

Members' cost for this event was $90 per person, all inclusive.

Franck's is not easy to find, located in Holladay and hidden behind the much more famous Tuscany eatery owned by former Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton. On our night out, all of Franck's parking was valet, and most of the nearby streets were marked "No Parking." Franck is much shorter than Mark and arguably more talented. The room was small with maybe 12-15 tables, and 3-4 more outside. There was a big plasma screen on the wall so all diners could see what was happening in the kitchen. Servers platooned to rush each course to each table, and there was little opportunity for interaction. A couple different servers made attempts, but they were unable by logisitcs to follow through on their intentions. I believe that a dining experience would certainly score better service marks than this banquet-style setting permitted. As for the food, we shall take each course and wine in turn, giving much attention to our table consensus on things.

Appetizers - the mushroom tart was delicious, with lightly grilled, well-seasoned mushrooms on a buttery, flaky tart base. The escargot were tender, not at all chewy, and garlicky - but too salty for my taste. The wine pairing was a traditional Kir (NOT a Kir Royale) which mixed Creme de Cassis with a still white wine (rather than a Champagne). The tart wine was supposed to play off the sweet Cassis, but all we could taste was the sweet. It was a nice, light starter, but most in our small group wondered what the wine would have tasted like on its own. We Americans defy tradition, as apparently Kir was the mayor of Dijon around World War II, and he loved these apparatifs so much that they now bear his name.

First Course - Mussels were fresh, sweet, and tender paired well with the burre blanc sauce. Some very nice Pomme Frite came to soak up the sauce, but someone forgot to tell the servers who hustled most of the dishes away. We managed to save one of the two at our table! The wine was an un-oaked Chablis, very crisp, dry, with a mild grapefruit taste and a hint of earthiness. It complemented the mussels very well.

Second Course - Hawaiian sea bass was light and sweet with a mild salty favor. The Amaretto sauce was nicely sweet, complementing the fish with the mildest hint of nutty flavor. The wine was an un-oaked Chardonnay grape, soft, round, tart, and dry with a clean finish and a mildly lemony aftertaste that went well with the fish. The pairing with broccoli stalks and rice provided both contrast and a medium to soak up the sauce.

Third Course - Franck did a nice job with the short ribs, which were boneless and had appropriate texture while still tender and not overly chewy. Scalloped potatoes were present for sauce-soaking. The meat had a slightly salty flavor. The wine had a light mustiness to the nose, great legs, full body of fruit with a dry finish. It erased all the salt in the meat, making a near-perfect pairing.

Fourth Course - Sweet quail with salty duck and a smooth Madeira sauce made for a great variety on the plate. I am not a duck person, though my wife and dinner partners were. But this duck was GREAT duck. I not only liked it, I enjoyed it thoroughly. One table-mate VIG (Very Italian Guy), fancied himself the best duck cook in the west, and he acknowledged Franck's were as good as his. Simply amazing. As was the wine. You could tell from the bouquet that it was something special - delicate with light floral overtones. It was full bodied, mildly astringent with a hint of tannin, rich, complex, with hints of blackberry, tobacco, leather, and currant - with a crisp finsh. It was brilliant alone, and OK with the food - also effectively balancing the salt in the meats.

Dessert - The pear tarten was sweet, flaky, chewy, and wonderful - the cool, fresh rosemary ice cream a great complement. And the Sauterne (one of my favorite wines) was out of this world - Full bodied and not syrupy - thick in the way of authentic maple syrup (not the glycerin thick Log Cabin stuff). It had a slight scent of orange blossom and sweet clover. It was lightly chilled and the taste was delicate, and complex, like liquid honey. The dessert and wine were brilliant alone, but made for a poor combination - the sweet of the dessert overpowered the delicacy of the wine.

All in all a great food and wine experience at a great price. Beware that not all of these wines are available at the restaurant, and none of them are available at the prices listed. In Utah the restaurants must buy their wines from the same source at the same price as private citizens - no trade or volume discounts for anyone. So expect to pay at least 2.2 times the prices listed above if you buy in the restaurant.

Highs: Good food, good friends, great wines, boisterous party, great value
Lows: Banquet service, few wine refills available

Bon App├ętit! - W. Ego

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