151 S 500 East
Salt Lake City, UT
Date of Visit: Friday, November 7, 2008
Time: Dinner - 7:30 PM
Number of Diners: 2
Food Quality: 6
After being turned away by the egotists at Em's, we detoured around a noisy and traffic-disrupting gay rights protest at Salt Lake City's Temple Square and made our way over to the Oasis Cafe. This was formerly THE place in Salt Lake for natural and organic foods. An ownership change at the end of 2007 has been met with pretty severe backlash from the locals, who have had basically nothing good to say about the service, and little good to say about the food, since 2006. We decided to give it a shot anyway. The restaurant is in a quiet neighborhood on the east side, with plenty of free parking on-street and adjacent lot. It's also attached to a "new age" bookstore. The room is large, well lit, decorated liberally with paintings in gallery style, quiet, and comfortable. It's shaped in the form of right triangle, with the long side being all windows with a view of the cozy city neighborhood. All servers were dressed in solid black, and one with "Dustin" on his name tag greeted us and showed us apologetically to the acute tip of the triangular dining area. "Is this OK?" he asked. I assured him it was, as we prefer quiet corners. He left us with a lot to read - 2 entree menus, one drinks menu, one tea menu, and one wine/beer menu. Only a couple of the green teas were marked "organic." I was surprised that the Oasis' claim to fame, natural and organic, was absent from the food menus.
Dustin returned promptly with two large glasses of tap water. Since we have recently abandoned consumption of water with chlorine in it for health reasons, it smelled like a swimming pool. We set the glasses quietly to one side while giving our appetizer order and asking for a large bottle of San Pellegrino - they offer 3 sizes. After polishing the appetizer off, I gave Dustin our food and wine order. He then remembered to tell us about the fresh Halibut special, prompting a change from my dining partner. He did neglect to mention the soup special - cream of cauliflower, which I had seen on the board on our way in. One thing that suffered in the ownership changeover is the website. The very trick java interface with music displays everything you need to know EXCEPT the menu. Several comments have been left on the site complaining about it, to no avail. So we will have to go from memory to describe the food and drinks.
What we had with descriptions...
Appetizer - Seared ahi medallions on baby spinach and arugula with mandarin oranges, sticky wild rice, and spicy mustard - $12
Salad - Mixed green salad with house dressing - $6
Entree - Special fresh halibut on a vegetable risotto - $22
Entree - Vegetarian lasagna - $18
Wine - Paul Jaboulet Cotes du Rhone "Parallel 45" - $35
Dessert - Gunbarrel Green Tea - $2
Dessert - Green Tea with Toasted Rice - $2
While the prices seemed a bit high for the area, that's to be expected for fresh and organic foods. Paying $35 for a $10 bottle of wine is also the norm for Utah.
The Parallel 45 is a reliable, inexpensive blend of French Grenache and Syrah grapes. Medium in body, we decided to risk it with the fish and veggie dinner choices. It was very fruity on the nose, opening with unsubtle dark cherry. The taste was full of fruit, barely off dry, and with a clean finish. Nothing special, but a decent pairing for almost any meal.
The half dozen ahi medallions were barely seared and served warm. Mixing the two greens with the rice, fish, orange, and mustard was a great combination. Individually the ingredients were more bland than I might have expected. The salads were also unexciting, leading me to suspect that the restaurant had abandoned its commitment to those ingredients. Instead they may have been content to settle for wierd art, advertisements for dance, zen healing, vegan events, and far left politics. While this atmosphere is sought by some, it does not necessarily translate to the plates. We were pleased with the entrees, though. The fish was fresh and delicious and went well with the slightly glue-like risotto. The very generous portion of veggie lasagna was saturated with several kinds of cheese and many vegetables, making for a very filling (if not completely hot) meal. For dessert we went with some unusual selections from the tea menu. The gunpowder tea was as good as any I've had anywhere, while the tea/rice mix was very light and different. Not to my taste, but my dining partner was quite happy with it.
All in all it was just okay, not spectacular. With tax the bill came to $105, quite high for an average/decent meal. Even though I had no big complaints with either food or service, it's possible to do better in Salt Lake.
Oasis Cafe - NOT RECOMMENDED
Highs: Entrees, art, decor, windows, atmosphere
Lows: Abandoned commitment to organic ingredients, bland greens, website not up to date
Bon Appétit! - W. Ego