Evening restaurant review
Many was the time we drove past this location on 9th East. Every time Wendi surveyed the empty building, she would proclaim, “Let’s buy it and open a restaurant, we will call it 900”. It was with some humor then when, one day, we drove past to see the brand new Stella Grill. Months of Wendi talking about her restaurant “900” meant that we had to go and see what had opened in it’s place.
Stella Grill is part of the local Pub Group Restaurants chain, also home to the eclectic Martine. Whilst I have never been to Martine, I have always meant to give it a try due it’s consistently good reviews. Stella Grill would appear to be in great company.
Arriving around 5-ish on a mid-week afternoon the restaurant was expectedly quiet. During the brief wait for our waitress, we took in the decor. Dimly lit, wood and metal create a cosy dining space. Large windows look out onto the busy 9th East. I believe the location may have formerly been a garage and that feel definitely permeates the space.
Service started a touch coldly, I felt, with our waitress being on the stern side of friendly. To warm things up we each grabbed a glass of wine, the house red for me ($5) and a Pinot Noir ($8) for Wendi. We decided to split the Crab and Corn Cakes (Green Chilli Salsa & Jalapeno Remoulade, $7.00) to begin:
We are both huge fans of Crab Cakes (as regular readers will no doubt spot). These were superb. Although presented relatively simply, their taste made up for the lack of eye candy many times over. The accompanying chilli salsa and remoulade were equally spot-on. I’d normally venture that there was too much sauce on the side, but the remoulade in particular was delicious and eatable on its own.
Wendi’s entree was the Caesar Salad ($8.50):
Wendi found the salad was so-so, nothing particularly wow-ish about the dish. In fact she seemed a little disappointed, commenting it wasn’t a classically executed example.
I opted for the Braised Morgan Valley Lamb Shank (Roasted Olive Sauce, Mint Couscous, $17.00):
This large plate arrived to more than my own wide eyes, most notably, a table of ladies sat opposite who were so intrigued they enquired as to what the dish was. They turned out to be (gushing) regulars of Stella Grill, but had yet to tackle the lamb. I’d recommend they definitely do so. The lamb was succulently tender, falling off the bone. To call the serving generous would be an understatement. For the price, this was a serious serving of quality lamb. Indeed, I don’t think I managed to finish every last morsel.
The mint couscous was a suitable accompaniment. Initially tasting great, the light mint accent was quickly overcome by the robust flavors of the lamb. I would have preferred a little more mint to stand up against the lamb. A small niggle on what was overall a great dish.
As our entree plates arrived at the table, the most bothersome element of the evenings service began. As is normal, the waitress checked we were happy with our entrees. Things went awry when she then reached across the table and tucked our bill in an empty glass. We both glanced at each other (“hey we might not be finished!”), shrugged and tucked into our meals.
Half way through our entrees, a separate waiter inquired if I’d like another glass of wine (having finished my first). I was pretty happy with the idea, so the ticket was removed from the table (again reaching between us and over our table). My replenished glass was swiftly delivered, with the ticket again updated and placed back in the glass.
Why on earth the bill couldn’t be delivered when we had both observably finished our meals is beyond me. When we decided to press on with dessert, the ticket was removed yet again. A very curious process.
Deserts seem to change regularly, so our waitress recited the day’s offering. We chose to share the Warmed Sweet Potato Tart (served with a dollop of gelato, $5.50):
Wendi stated that she enjoyed this dessert. I am afraid (maybe because I am British and strange) I couldn’t quite reconcile sweet potato as a dessert ingredient The pastry was nice enough as was the Gelato. And at $5.50, dessert wasn’t breaking the bank.
After dessert, we finished with a decaf-coffee ($1.75) and sat back as confusion abounded over our now missing bill. Taken away as the dessert was delivered, and after so many appearanced during our meal, it now seemed to have vanished. When the bill returned, it was paid, only to have it brought back one more time due to a missing cup of coffee charge. I must say that the issue was resolved without too much fuss. I just can’t help thinking the meal would be such much smoother if the bill came only one time, that time being when the meal was actaully over and the entire bill had been tabulated. Yes I know I am picky, but I found myself constantly fascinated with the ticket, taking my focus off the meal.
I don’t believe the restaurant has been open too long. I heard one of the waiters comment to a table of regulars (later as the restaurant filled up) that a recent review in the Deseret News had contributed to increased busyness. With a few more months under their belts and a little more co-ordination in service, Stella Grill looks like it could be a longtime welcome addition to this neighborhood.
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I am not aware of a website for Stella Grill, it is located at 4291 S 900 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84124
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.