If you go to Tripadvisor.com and type in Salt Lake City, and then click on restaurants — the #1 place to eat is Meditrina. Tucked away in a near-downtown neighborhood, Meditrina is housed in an old storefront sporting exposed brick walls and new flooring. The ambiance, packed with purple and lime-green accents, is fun and friendly. I’m so happy to report, that in this, our Gay Pride issue—we have a gay-owned restaurant and wine bar we can be proud of; in fact the whole city of Salt Lake can be proud of!
Thirty years ago when my sister and I owned a restaurant in Holladay, I would have been mortified if Restaurant Dijon would have been “outed” as a gay business. People have even implied that during the AIDS scare in the mid ’80s, my restaurant suffered because it had a gay chef. Well, thank god those days are past — hopefully — as people become more and more comfortable with gay issues, that kind of discrimination will disappear altogether.
Meditrina is owned and operated by Amy Britt and Jen Gilroy. For eight years they have been partners both in life and in business, and I’m particularly impressed by their cuisine and how they have married it with wine. As I sat with Jen last Monday night I had an excellent meal, fine company, good wine and music — on Monday nights Blue Grass player Dee Wolfe brings his mandolin and gently hums and strums — this was a very nice evening for me.
First, I ordered a glass of white wine — I asked the server which white doubled as a nice cocktail wine and she offered me a glass of Le Mandolare Soave. This is a special order wine brought in by Brad Jensen of Bon Vivant Wines. It has a very pale peach color, beautifully floral nose and bright crispness. I just loved the suggestion and I drank it with my first small plate. Jen brought out Meditrina’s version of fish and chips — a portion of fresh gruper, breaded and pan fried, then plated with homemade tartar sauce and delicate yam chips. The plate was gorgeous and delicious.
Octopus? Yes octopus — all the rage these days. Jen explained how it has to be cooked for hours to become tender enough to chew—then it is grilled to give it a crispy coating and plated with a blueberry mustard and red cabbage. I knew what I was in for — I’ve had octopus at several places in the last year and, although a novelty, it’s not my favorite thing. (I did know what I was in for though — more texture than flavor and presenting a certain exotic trepidation.) Jen brought me a glass of another excellent white wine — Londer Dry Gewurztraminer. I am a Gewurtz fan—preferring it over its cousin — Riesling. Gewurtz has a spicy, mustache fluffing attack and a floral, almost muscat-like nose. You think at first it’s going to be sweet, but it’s deceivingly dry in the finish. I’ve heard about this wine for a long time and so happy to finally experience it — this Gewurtz gave a lot of class to the lowly octopus and made the overall experience delightful.
By this time it was about 7:30 and Meditrina’s dining room was filling up. There was a large table of about a dozen people celebrating some family event. And there were young and old couples both gay and straight, and Jen more than once had to run to the rescue of the kitchen.
Jen and Amy are self-taught business women. They hail from the Uintah Mountain enclave of Vernal where they both worked in small eateries and learned the business from the ground up. Jen keeps the kitchen going and Amy takes care of the money and the front of the house. They both choose the wine list, which is quite remarkable.
When I heard lamb was on the menu that night, I jumped at the chance to have some of my favorite meat. Meditrina uses local, Morgan Valley lamb. That night the kitchen was preparing small, boneless loins which appeared to be pan seared then roasted quickly in the oven. The meat was tender, roasted to perfection and still pink and juicy, just in the center — it’s hard to get it that perfect! I love the presentation too — cut into sections and then separated with wedges of roma tomatoes and then topped with a whipped feta cheese butter spiked with fresh mint — very nice.
With my lamb, I had a glass of a Voghera Dolcetto, another special order wine. Dolcetto, as indicated by its name is a soft, easy-drinking, smooth wine — more like Carignane than Pinot Noir but a very nice choice with the lamb. The Dolcetto opened up nicely and, like many Italian reds, it processes bold fruit and an almost austere dryness. I liked it a lot.
For dessert I tried a Panne Cotta—in France these are called “Pots de Crème.” Unlike custard which becomes gelatinous from eggs, Panne Cotta is cream cooked with gelatin and no eggs — the result is lighter and quite ethereal. I could tell it was a pet project of Jen’s because she beamed when she told me about it. She called it “salt and pepper” because the crème itself was mildly flavored with white pepper and the caramel sauce on top was lightly dusted with sea salt. Sometimes I think these new-fangled desserts using savory elements go too far, but in this case the salt and pepper were just slightly detectable and did not detract from the lovely texture and simple elegance of the crème.
Meditrina serves lunch and dinner and their menu is just as diverse and interesting as the meal I have just described to you. They have entrées, sandwiches and salads and combinations starting at just $9. They also have a special “happy hour” menu served from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday thru Saturday, and it’s quite obvious that they’ve gained the support of their neighborhood, the gay community and the wine community.
I give Meditrina a rating of 90 and hope to go there again soon — and we should all be watching for their special food and wine events which are becoming legendary.