When I eat at a restaurant, one of the question that I ask myself after I’ve finished is, “Would I have been able to make that at home?” If the answer is yes, I rarely go back.
The reason for this is that I have found plenty of other restaurants that offer unique fare that I cannot replicate and I believe that there are also numerous other restaurants still, that I haven’t patronized, that are capable of surprise and delight. I also make it a point to try new restaurants often, in order to force myself out of the old comfort zone. This almost invariably leads to places that I now cherish where I look back, after eating there for the 15th time, and saying, “Wow, what if I had never decided to try this place?” I shutter at the thought.
The first time we dined at The Copper Onion was last fall. Our waiter was kind of stupid. He didn’t know anything about the menu or the food. Maybe he was new. But he wasn’t able to guide us through the menu or recommend anything spectacular. We mentioned that it was our first time but that did little to phase him. We ended up getting some sort mussels dish and fresh pasta. As you can see, it wasn’t that memorable and it took looking at the menu again to jog my memory. My wife and I both left agreeing that we could’ve easily recreated something similar and better at home.
My brother-in-law (Adam) and sister (Jodi) invited us out with some friends to celebrate his birthday. We had recently been to Forage and while we were there we noticed that they won the Salt Lake Magazine’s Best Restaurant (rightfully so) and the previous year they had won Best New Restaurant. So when I heard that The Copper Onion won Best New Restaurant this year I was lead to wonder if they had successfully filled the shoes that Forage left for them. When Jodi asked me for recommendations, I decided that this would be an excellent time to see what I had obviously missed the first time and give them a second chance. And I’m extremely glad we did.
The dinner was awesome. Our waitress was much more competent. She even put up with me and my annoying questions. I had heard a lot about their pork belly salad, being the oxymoron that it is and had to try it. I’m becoming more and more adventurous while eating out as well. By adventurous I mean I’m more liberal with our hard-earned cash. I won’t settle for something that I’ve had a few times just for the sake of not being disappointed. I long ago gave up on the notion of being a picky eater and attributed this character flaw with 3 year olds, something that I (and the majority of the population) grew out of.
It was actually a spicy pork belly salad, with the heat coming from bits of jalapeno. When ordering, my waitress made it seem like the pieces of belly were miniscule, barely capable of satiating a squirrel. We must have had a waitress with a stomach in each leg because they were more than generous, especially given how rich they were. The intermingling of textures was especially nice. The outside was extremely crispy and facilitated structure. As you made it past the outer layer, the interior was soft and oh so porky. One particular layer rendered almost instantly in the heat of my mouth, filling it with a mouth-coating, fatty, savory, richness that felt like it went straight to my brain. It came with 3 pieces and I believed I shared 1 of them. 2 was more than enough.
The rest of the meal consisted of house-made pickles. I love pickles and so when I saw these on the menu, given their price, I added them to our bill. A restaurant that offers pickles tells me that it has its act together. They either are able to successfully pickle something quickly, or they have planned ahead enough to be able to offer their customers something that’s months in the making. They were very unique, much sharper and less sweet that your run-of-the-mill dills.
Out of the 8 people in our dinner party, 5 of them got The Copper Onion burger, including me. When our waitress asked us what temperature we preferred, I was pleasantly surprised. That question is almost nonexistent with our currently corrupt meat-industry where cattle stand all day either breathing in feces-laden dust, or standing knee-deep (if steers have knees) in their own defecation thereby leading to E. coli. Sorry if that was a little disgusting, but it was nice to know that the Copper Onion was confident enough in the quality of their meat and probably how it was raised that I was able to order a burger cooked medium-rare. The burger was delicious and extremely juicy (probably because I ordered it medium-rare). I should’ve got the onion rings, or whatever alternative they were offering instead of the French fries. These things were more like French logs. I’m not a huge fan of baked potatoes and these massive fries shared the same, throat-parching interior texture. I didn’t finish them. Oh well, one bad note.
My wife got the chicken, which was good. Adam had his first experience with a wagyu-style steak.
That was funny to watch. Over-the-top decadence that has nothing to do with chocolate or dessert seems to be a theme with the Copper Onion.
We did look at the dessert menu, but they were sold out of the bread pudding that Adam wanted so we paid up, hopped in the cars, and headed over to Capo for some gelato. In Adam’s words, “The gelato just fills in all the cracks.” It was a perfect end to an extremely rich night to remember.