Update June 29th: the excitement for this one was really big. Following on from this story, the four events sold out in less than 36 hours. Stay tuned to our social media for their next events.
I’m fond of joking that I’ll attend the opening of a can of coke if it’s free, but the truth is less fanciful. As jaded and arterially defeated as I am, it takes a special kind of something to pry me from the safety of the sofa. News about Arthur did not only that but also found me ironing a shirt too. Serious business indeed.
Arthur is an ephemeral pop up, blinking in and out of quantum existence within Nohm – the Japanese/Korean restaurant over in the Central 9th. The fleeting concept from SLC natives Kevin and Alexa Finch first came our way in February, a brief one off. This time around team Finch are back at it with a sextuplet of special events; this past weekend was host to the first two installments.
Each popup sees the Finch’s commandeer the entirety of Nohm, assemble a crack team and cook up a storm. The menu leans into whatever they find from the SLC farmer’s market, tapping local names like Frogbench and Borski Farms.
Before we press on, it’s worth taking a quick gander at Mr Finch‘s CV, boasting no less than chef de cuisine at Atelier Crenn. Pretty much the top toque at one of San Fran’s most well regarded Michelin musts. This is no small beans. Onto the eating then. Your evening will undoubtedly differ from ours, but here’s the blow by blow of the opening night…
We start with a collection of veggies snagged from the morning’s market. Presented as a simple crudite plate, the haul is prepared in a variety of ways; it’s also the first of several dishes that cannily employ the embers of Nohm’s charcoal grill. Sauce gribiche – a fancy tartar sauce, all sharp and creamy – comes on the side.
Next up, Monterey Bay squid. The mollusk is cooked over the coals before being chopped into a bowl of chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard) alongside market fresh English peas. It’s a textural treat, firm and sweet and smokey bites, adrift in a wispy nebula of egg. And yes, I’lll be waxing poetic plenty more.
Maitake follows. The mushroom is given a good quick crisp cook, plenty of salt, before being coated in a silken sabayon. The plate is finished with a bright flourish of marigolds. Eggs and mushrooms, how can you go wrong?
The keen use of salt and acid and texture shines in every dish. It’s grown up cooking and fascinating to watch the kitchen do their thing. I find myself plopped at the counter (which if you’re afforded the opportunity – do) granting a birds eye view of the ad hoc brigade at work. Finch details the trio of assisting guest chefs and wryly notes of having only worked with one prior to the evening. It makes the proceedings all the more impressive.
The crescendoing peak of the evening for me, comes in the form of a sublime piece of black cod. Usually spotted on menus trying to ape Nobu’s iconic miso fueled dish, here it comes delicately steamed. The result is gossamer light. The high fat content of the fish makes for an incredibly creamy, almost custard like texture. Plated with a “sauce of roasted bones” it’s simply sorcery as far as I am concerned. But we’re not finished.
The piece de resistance is a plonk of California Caviar delivering a salty snap. Side note: if anyone ever offers you caviar, the only reasonable response is a furiously quick nod and steely eyed stare. According to the presser notes for the popup restaurant, Finch works with (sustainable) Sturgeon Farms in Idaho and Northern California every year to procure and make his own caviar.
Rounding out the savory portion of the meal, sous vide beef rocks up; it’s also another ingredient rendered complete over Nohm’s charcoal grill, which helps impart a charred veneer to the impeccably slow cooked beef. Dressed sorrel leaves, fried potatoes, and a cheekily underplayed “very good sauce” round out the composition. It’s meat, potatoes and gravy as re-imagined by warlocks. That’s the only reasonable way I can explain the tremendous depth of flavor at work. Black magic, simple as. Please bury me in this.
Yogurt with rhubarb signposts the meal is coming to an end. A drizzle of slightly bitter olive oil serves as a nice transition away from savory. And again, a quite lovely thwack of salt.
The meal ends with tarte ambroisie; a ruthlessly uncharitable pastry that’s neurotically brittle. One false step and your world is a devastating mess of crumbles and tears. I tease Finch briefly that he’s toying with madness. A grimace turns to a momentary smile when the first pastry slides seamlessly out from the baking pan. The dark chocolate tart is topped with berries from the market, a blob of sleek Chantilly cream on the side.
With dinner complete, you can head West to The Pearl and Water Witch or East to Scion Cider and take a moment to decompress. In the context of the increasingly homogenized dining landscape we all live in, the meal offers an invigorating shot to the senses. It’s the antithesis of your dizzying Tik Tok scroll. Oh hey, is that another fried chicken sandwich. Sweet.
Tickets for the remaining quartet of evenings can be bought online at https://www.exploretock.com/arthur-salt-lake-city/; dinner is priced $120, with a wine pairing $55. The next events are planned for July 9th and 10th as well as July 16th and 17th. Each evening is limited to 48 guests, expect them all to sell out.
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Disclosure: the Arthur team invited me to come on down and comped the basic cost of my meal. I picked up the tab for my booze and caviar; remember if you’re asked to approve caviar, a furious quick nod and steely eyed stare folks.
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with multiple local publications from Visit Salt Lake to Salt Lake Magazine, not least helped to consult on national TV shows.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for the better part of fifteen years. I’m largely fueled by a critical obsession with rice, alliteration and the use of big words I don’t understand. What they’re saying about me: “Not inaccurate”, “I thought he was older”, “I don’t share his feelings”. Want to know more? This is why I am the way I am.
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2 thoughts on “Arthur – one of Utah’s best meals will vanish in a couple weeks”
Oh boy, can’t wait to give this a try! We’ve got reservations in a couple of weeks. They had me at chawanmushi…
Hopefully your meal is as good as mine was!