Perched on a hill in Draper, with Cactus and Tropicals right next door, Vuz is a very impressive installation – similar, if not equal, in beauty to the glitzy bars and restaurants in the new hotels in Deer Valley and Park City. As you walk through this cavernous space it seems that no expense has be spared. Everywhere you look the creators of Vuz have detailed and customized the decor including the walls, floors, ceilings and a beautiful, round, open kitchen that is seen from every angle as are the expansive vistas of the Salt Lake Valley to the west. When I was able to shut my jaw again, I started really noticing what was going on.
Vuz, from the outset, wanted to be a true wine bar (which I’ve yet to see in Salt Lake) and a lot has been done to create the feeling of being in a wine-producing area like Napa. There is a beautiful room, behind glass, where eventually wine will be made—all the equipment is there—and in one of the hallways, gorgeous, modern racks have been installed to display an already extensive wine collection. There is also a bar with tall, neon towers and mirrored shelves displaying hundreds of liquor items to be used in the making of every cocktail known to man. The problem is that so far Vuz doesn’t have the proper liquor license to make all these things possible. The bar which may be the most spectacular this side of Las Vegas is hidden behind one of those hideous “Zion Curtains” which has, at this point, made the bar scene impossible at Vuz. The manager and the chef both seemed more than just depressed about this problem.
I would like to say here to all of my readers, that since Governor Huntsman has left office, our legislature headed by Michael Waddoups has made every effort to go backward and return to old policies that control alcohol in Utah, Last year’s DABC debacle over the closing of several liquor stores has only heightened Waddoup’s intention to keep on this course. When he doesn’t get his way he sees that progressive commissioners and other officials of the DABC are eliminated so he can continue his quest. The “Zion Curtain” at Vuz is the most forceful example yet of how silly and inept our legislators can be. I hate to go on a political tirade here but please, if you like to go out to eat, and if you want a cocktail once in a while or if you want to learn about and enjoy the wonders of the world of wine, please find out what your legislator’s stance is on the alcohol laws and let him or her know what your opinion is!
I sat down with Chef Kaharim Becerra who hails from Cuernavaca, Mexico. He is very animated and entertaining as a host and it was the first time the chef has stayed with me throughout my visit in a very long time. Kaharim worked for many years at the Grand America hotel then spent two years as an executive chef in a private and exclusive Montana resort. When he returned to Salt Lake City he took up the task of starting up Frida Bistro. There, his knowledge of the many regional cuisines of Mexico came to the forefront. Frida Bistro is, and has been, a huge success and a true culinary delight. At Vuz, Kaharim has continued this trend of creativity and attention to detail, to superb ingredients and a command of excellence in his kitchen. (He’s already fired two sous-chefs who couldn’t measure up!)
Here’s what I had to eat. First the chef brought me one of his signature small plates, not being fond of the word appetizer he explains. It was his PB&J Foie Gras open-faced sandwich. Normally I would have thought the idea a bit out there but I was pleasantly surprised. I love Foie Gras and was happy to give it a try. This treatment was like none other; homemade peanut butter, grapes simmered in sweetened red wine, and a slice of homemade brioche toasted with the pan-seared liver on top. Not exactly sweet, the look and the flavors were awesome. If I had just one small complaint it would be that some of the flavors were too strong for this very delicate meat but I nevertheless give it very high marks.
Next the staff brought me a another painted plate with a huge amount of crab meat atop a halved avocodo. The crab was lightly dressed and at the bottom of the plate, the chef had placed a pool of “Gazpacho-style” vinaigrette. This dressing was so delicious I had to ask for more from the kitchen. I ate every bite!
Lamb may be my favorite meat and I love introducing beautiful lamb to people who say they hate it! Properly cooked, young lamb should be the juiciest and most flavorful of all meats, and it should be tender too. Lately, I’ve had great lamb at several places and been very impressed, but Kaharim’s lamb, to date, is maybe the best I’ve had in a restaurant. Kaharim gets his lamb from New Mexico which is organically grown and fed. He plated it with the most delightful array of veggies and accompaniments, yet nothing seemed out of place or too much.
Three gorgeous chops held into place by two kinds of potato; garlic mash and French Galette a la Lyonnaise. The potato galette is like scalloped potatoes but without the cream. They’re cooked in butter and stock, and have a crispy crust. I could have made a meal of these! Then there was a tasty demi-glaze laced with large chunks of ground mustard. Plus, two delicious pools of chestnut cream blended with chive flanked by golden beets and baby broccoflower, all of them on my list of favorite things.
I also tried the chef’s idea of mac & cheese, tossed with succulent lobster pieces and the cheese sauce served on the side in a sheared egg-shell.
The dessert sampler plate, too, was delicious and beautiful,all house-made items by their pastry chef.
It is with all the hope I can muster that Vuz can continue to bring its magic to Salt Lake City; hopefully the alcohol problem will soon be resolved and the bar and the wine-making can get going. My friend and educator colleague, Sheral Schowe of the Wasatch Academy of Wine is holding wine events at Vuz and has been very involved with the impressive wine list. Vuz is located at 12234 S. Draper Gate Dr. (1300 East).
Small plates are $12-$15 and grand plates are from $29 to $42 and well worth it. Please, please head to Vuz and check it out. I give it a rating of 94.