by Josh Jones
“Snout to tail, local, farmer’s market, tapas,” — it seems every restaurant opens with similar catch-phrases on the press releases. But for once, there’s a new dining spot in the city that puts the pedal to the metal. Finca, 1291 S. 1100 East, does it all without (too much) pretentiousness and with a whole lot of love. Scott Evans has remarkably raised the bar again.
There are some fantastic dishes at Finca – beautiful, wonderfully cooked and plated, but I want to focus on just one.
Meatballs. No, not meatballs like your mom cooks (even if she is from Italy) I mean albondigas ($10). A lamb meatball made with the utmost love and care. Tender, luscious, wonderful little balls that melt in your mouth; they are literally the cotton candy of meat. A light tomato sauce blankets the balls in a sweeter-than-usual, but terrifically clean and bright tomato flavor. A deep, glimmering red — the color of true blood, this recipe should be copyrighted. This plate alone would qualify Finca as one of the best restaurants in the state.
Although it’s hard to turn away the meatballs, I should tell you about a few other menu items… meatballs, oh! I mean… . Most of the menu consists of Spanish tapas and most items very reasonable and perfect for sharing with a group. Pork-belly skewers were slow-cooked and delicious, though the alternating eggplant squares were just a bit too charred. A real stand out was the Boquerones ($6), small crostini’s with an anchovy over a tomato and red pepper paste; they had a wonderful texture with nice balance of sweet and salty.
As an alcohol lover, I’d be remiss not to mention the exciting bar program Scott Gardner has put together. Let’s face it, a lot of Utah restaurants’ cocktail menus are not very inspiring. The restrictive laws make it difficult to be truly creative, but Gardner has turned that assumption on its head. Cocktails like the La Hierba Verde ($10) with local vodka, lemon, sauvignon blanc, celery bitters and herbs are complex and refreshing. The bar menu also highlights Spanish spirits, sherries and ports. The program tips its hat to Spain with exclusive Spanish wines.
Evans, the gracious owner of Pago, has once again elevated Salt Lake dining. His passion for restaurants is evident as he is ever present at both locations. Personally, I can’t wait to see what he does next!