Evening dinner restaurant review
If you are anything like me, you’re stuck into a rut of certain restaurants for specific occasions. When you want a fancy meal, you probably have a favourite restaurant in mind for that extravagant night out. Case in point, most of my recent birthdays have been spent in the company of my friends at Bambara. I really like the food, service, and atmosphere, so we always seem to end up there when we are in a celebratory mood and looking for a “splurgy” meal.
When my birthday rolled around this year though, Wendi suggested we try somewhere new. Was change really a good idea? What if I picked somewhere terrible and missed a great meal over at my favourite restaurant. Then I remembered all the praise I’ve heard lavished on Franck’s. From local critics such as Ted Scheffler and Mary Brown Malouf to local foodies on various message boards – phrases like “my favourite Salt Lake area restaurant” were encouragingly common when referring to Franck’s. Change it was then, we made our reservations (certainly needed!) and waited with baited breath.
The first pleasant sign that we were in for a good meal was the restaurant calling to confirm our reservation on the morning of our intended visit. My personal take on that, regardless of the niceity, is that it’s a good sign the restaurant is routinely full to the brim, and needs to free up any tables from guests who’s plans may have changed.
Our cab driver seemed to be as unaware of the restaurants location as ourselves. As we pulled into the parking lot for the restaurant, the picturesque setting was a surprising treat. Franck’s restaurant is set in the same grounds as the Tuscany restaurant. That means lots of tall trees and intimate outdoor dining if you’re so inclined.
Stepping indoors, you are instantly greeted by an open window into the kitchen area and on this evening, a view of Franck himself working away. The restaurant space has a homey feel about it, not unlike several other converted spaces in Salt Lake. The dining space is quite small, hence the need for reservations on busy nights. The atmosphere is a relaxed one, and I could imagine the decibel level getting up there on busier nights.
Service started brightly. After a brief wait to prepare our table (we were 20 minutes early) we were offered our choice of tables in the relatively quiet dining room. We were then quickly offered water before our waitress came over to check on us. To accompany our meal we chose a bottle of Chehalem Pinot Noir 2006 ($58.00). The DABC website lists this at $30, so a welcome mark up of slightly less than 2x.
For her appetizer, Wendi selected the Roasted Tomato (Mozzarella Cheese, Pesto Vinaigrette, Balsamic Reduction, Tomato Water Spheres, $7.95):
Wendi admitted she had ordered her appetizer based on her curiosity about “Tomato Water Spheres”. The spheres in question ended up being gelatinous and chewy, rather than having the “pop” Wendi had anticipated. Overall, she found the dish light and refreshing and the flavours a perfect tried and true blend.
I went with the Slow Roasted Pork Belly (Sautéed Banana Squash, Ginger Madeira Sauce, $7.95):
I will confess that pork belly is a relatively new thing for me. I have only tried it occasionally, but Franck’s offering seemed excellent. The pork had a nice mix of soft melting fat and textured meat. I thought the portion size was quite generous for the low price of $8 too.
Each entree at Francks comes with a choice of soup or salad. We decided we would try both and, after our server’s description, Wendi opted for the Wild Mushroom Soup, which was intriguingly described as having a coffee flavor (free):
After one taste, she said “Hmmm, interesting”, by three or four more tastes that had turned to “Ummm, no, maybe not” and she gave up. I had to give the soup a whirl and had the same experience. The coffee flavour was somewhat strong and the soup had a sweet creaminess, but it also had a strong garlic taste, which seemed to bring out the bitterness in the coffee. We are both coffee drinkers, but the mix of flavours just wasn’t right for our tastes. Not great in our opinion.
The House Salad (free) was much simpler and better for it:
A simple green salad with croutons and bacon bits. Nothing particularly exciting, but fresh and tasty nonetheless. The soup or salad selection seems a little ‘old fashioned’ to me personally, but it certainly increases the value for money at Franck’s (more on that later).
With our table cleared, entrées shortly followed. Wendi chose the Filo Wrapped Wild Coho Salmon (Cauliflower Cous Cous, Pea Tendrils, Mango Confit, Sweet and Spicy Coconut Broth, $27.95):
Again, Wendi was a little surprised by the flavour combinations. She found the cauliflower mash paired a little strangely with the sweet mango confit and the sweetness of the coconut broth. While not unpleasant, she did comment that the dish would be close to perfect if the cauliflower cous cous was replaced with rice. The salmon appeared to be cooked perfectly, not an easy feat with the filo pastry involved, and overall Wen really enjoyed her entree.
I felt slightly guilty ordering my choice. Going to a fine dining eatery and ordering what is traditionally a no fuss, simple, comfort food. I had heard so much praise for this particular dish though, that I just had to try it. I checked with our server and she emphatically agreed “Yes, you really do need to try it!” So, I went ahead and ordered Franck’s Free-Range, Herb and Garlic Southern Fried Chicken (Summer Vegetables, Mashed Potatoes, Fresh Herb Brandy Sauce, $24.95):
The dish consisted of three large portions of fried chicken atop a simple mashed potato all surrounded with the herb brandy “gravy”. As simple a dish as any, but taste wise, it lived up to all expectations. The chicken was massively juicy and tender. The crunchy exterior was also excellent, I hereby coin the phrase “crunchtastic” as the perfect adjective. It was also darned tasty too! The mashed potatoes were basic but the star here was the chicken. I will admit I forget how the herb brandy sauce stacked up, I was too busy working my way through the chicken. (Wendi’s note – I tried Stu’s entrée and I remember the herb brandy sauce being delicious and such a nice compliment to the perfect, and addictive – I can’t wait to go back and order it myself – chicken.)
The only fault, if anything, was that I found the serving too large. I probably made my way through half of the dish before surrendering. I felt a tad guilty leaving so much of the delicious food behind. (Wendi’s note – trust me, I gave my all too. It was a lot of food.)
Desserts were recited to us by the server, a good sign they are made fresh and change regularly. I don’t recall the full selection, but we picked the Lemon Trio ($7.95), which we thought would be a nice lighter affair after having gorged on fried chicken:
We also each went with a glass of Grahams Tawny Port (20 year), another keenly priced item at $10 a glass. The Lemon Trio consisted of a lemon ice cream, a lemon and pastry Napoleon-type dessert, and a lemon Creme Brulee. My favourite was the ice cream, I didn’t care for the others. Wendi, on the other hand, enjoyed each offering immensely.
The friendly and unobtrusive service continued at an even pace through our meal. Our request for a cab home was also smoothly taken care of as we came to leaving. The whole staff worked with a well oiled precision, making for an enjoyable dining experience.
So is change good? If the change you have in mind includes Franck’s, the answer would be a definite yes. Sure we experienced a few misfires (incorrect and confusing water service, lacklustre soup), but on the whole it was a very good meal. I found the pricing especially reasonable for a higher-end eatery. The meal was comprised of a $60 bottle of wine, 2 appetizers, soup and salad, 2 large entrées (neither of us could finish), dessert, 2 glasses of port, and came to $160. Both of us thought we would have passed the $200 mark easily. We definitely won’t be giving up Bambara any time soon, but will add Franck’s to our celebration destinations. All we need now are more reasons to celebrate. Hey, isn’t Columbus Day coming up soon?
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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.