Editor’s Note: Peter Golub graciously stood in for me at a recent preview of Franck’s new fall menu in Salt Lake City. I’m pleased to offer his elegantly descriptive account of the dinner.
In 2001, former Utah Jazz star Mark Eaton decided to find a chef de cuisine for his new business venture, a unique bistro that would wow Utah palates. To achieve this goal, Eaton sent a business associate to New York City. “His job,” says Eaton, “was to order everything on the menu until the manager personally inquired about the extravagant guest. Once the manager’s interest was raised, they would talk a little shop.”
After spending a few weeks on the island, Eaton’s partner found himself returning to a little Park Avenue restaurant where Franck Peissel, a young Frenchman from Provence, was employed as chef-specialité. Five years later, Peissel was honored with a small restaurant bearing his name. The result is one of Utah’s finest and most exciting dining experiences.
The menu is French at heart but also pays tribute to some simple American dishes that have inspired Peissel’s palate. Starters include a roasted beet salad (served with candied pecans, goat cheese and a house-made shallot vinaigrette —$8.95); slow-roasted pork (served with sautéed banana squash and a red wine-cumin sauce —$7.95); and calamari provencal (served with fresh basil pesto, niçoise olives and oven-dried tomatoes —$8.95). There also was pan seared foie gras on apple and olive oil compote and a wafer of toasted brioche topped with foie gras ice cream.
Entrées range from French specials like the coq au vin (served with onion, bacon and button mushrooms in a red wine reduction—$21.95) to comfort food options like Franck’s specialty meatloaf (made with pulled pork, veal and chicken with potatoes and sautéed banana squash in a berry lavender sauce — $25.95).
I was personally stunned by the intricate delicacy of the shiitake soup (made with pickled blueberries and violet petals). The subtle flavors opened and changed long after the spoon left my mouth and I was left dreamily gazing out the window. The soup was a special new item offered for the first time that day.
Desserts included warm chocolate tart with sea salt and espresso chai ice cream; a chocolate bombe comprising peanut butter and chocolate mousse on top of chocolate ganache with a coconut and hazelnut crust, and layered passion fruit and hazelnut ganache.
One of the great things about Franck’s is that the menu changes daily, as Peissel makes it a point to use local ingredients and tune the menu to seasonal offerings. “He still manages to surprise me,” notes Eaton with admiration. This quality makes every dining experience special and keeps customers returning, curious about what new culinary pleasure awaits them.
Another pleasure at Franck’s is that creativity is not only an integral part of the food, but also of the ambiance and presentation as well. Before presenting the lamb cassoulet (served with couscous and lobster tail in a lichee sauce) Peissel had the table set with small glass pitchers containing hot water and twigs of rosemary. The effect was a pleasure for all the senses, a decoration as aesthetically pleasing as it was charming to both nose and palate. Also, the restaurant is equipped with a chef-cam, which feeds to a television in the dining room, allowing interested diners to experience the culinary action in the kitchen.
However, the greatest testimony to the creative energy of the space is probably the interior design of the restaurant, which is based around an orange abstract painting hanging on the north wall of the dining room. “We bought the painting and decorated the place around it,” says Eaton. The subtle yet dynamic tones of the painting breathe life and energy into the restaurant, transforming the space into something like the petite maison of a savvy modernist. Outside, the building is surrounded by an oasis of trees behind which tower the mountains.
Tucked away in Holladay’s Knudsen’s Corner area just beneath the grand mountains of Big Cottonwood Canyon, Franck’s is truly one of the treasures of the Wasatch Front. The intimate atmosphere, coupled with the excellent creative efforts of the head chef, makes Franck’s a perfect place for romantic couples, business diners, and simply anyone who appreciates the art of good food. I recommend dining around sunset. Yellow light falls through the towering cottonwoods, illuminating the small building like a fairytale cottage.
For more information about Franck’s, see here.
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