Dinner at Copper Onion – Part 6 of Collecting Mountains

By chance, I discovered a gem of a restaurant in Salt Lake City. I was deciding for a place for dinner while browsing the visitor’s guide magazine in the Hyatt Place Downtown SLC when I was interested in the American fare that Copper Onion supposedly serves. The restaurant is located along East Broadway just by the State Street intersection and thus should be quite easy to get to but not necessarily that easy to spot from the street side. Parking is available along the street and along Edison Street. Reservations are definitely recommended when dining here unless you are visiting alone and do not mind dining by the bar counter.

Entrance of the Copper Onion
Entrance of the Copper Onion
Early dinner at Copper Onion
Interior of the Copper Onion

Inside the restaurant, the decor reminds me of the casual eateries located around the Rockies and feels like a diner. Since I arrived early evening for dinner around 5:30pm, the place was relatively empty and was brightly lit from the setting sun. It feels like a very comfortable space for a meal!

Open kitchen at Copper Onion
Open kitchen at Copper Onion

As I made the reservations on the day just a few hours earlier, I was given a seat by the bar but no matter since I was dining alone and got to enjoy the chefs performing their work through the open kitchen concept. The view occupied me while waiting for the food which was delicious by the way!

For this first visit, I ordered a black pepper mussels starter and a pork chop, both of which are featured on their main menu. The restaurant also has a daily/weekly specials offering featuring what is fresh for the day or the week. There was bamboo clams on offer for daily specials when I visited. For my beverage, I ordered a bottle of the Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer, and I was taken in by this beverage that I searched for it when I returned to Vancouver.

Butterscotch beer
Butterscotch beer

The mussel starter was one of the best I have ever had. I did not expect an inland city like Salt Lake City to have such excellent and fresh mussels. It was cooked in a creamy black pepper sauce with a hint of yuzu, and thus combines a bit of savoury and fresh scent to every mouthful. The sauce was so good that I used the perfect crispy toast to soak up more of the sauce. This is one dish I crave for and I just wondered why no chef tries to add some other citrus flavours into their cream sauce to lighten up a moules-frites dish since citrus works wonders and pairs perfectly with seafood.

Black pepper mussels
Black pepper mussels

If you’re just looking for a light meal, the plate of mussels would probably be filling enough but I was kind of hungry since I had a late lunch and that was also one reason I was fine with the early dinner. The main course of pork chop was also amazing in its own right. Normally I am not a big fan of pork chops and it is usually one of the least likely choices in my order. But somehow this griddled pork chop was cooked perfectly. With the creamy polenta, it was still juicy and tender. The taste was also light on the palate allowing the richness of the pork to please the tongue without the strong scent that usually accompanies pork dishes. The polenta was also really fluffy and light, that makes it appetizing to eat with the pork chop. Even after finishing a bowl of mussels, I cleared this plate as well.

Ballard farm griddled pork chop
Ballard farm griddled pork chop

With 2 stellar dishes, I was hooked with this place and I actually returned for a second time after snowboarding and on my second visit I ordered their bamboo clams with bacon vinaigrette and crispy Kurobuta pork belly served with brussel sprouts. Both dishes were appetizers as I did not want a heavy dinner this time round. I liked the seared bamboo clams since they are quite rare to be found in American cuisine and it works very well with the bacon vinaigrette. However the pork belly dish was slightly too crispy and too dry for my liking. The chefs did a good job by adding cranberries on top of the pork belly though to create a sweet tangy sensation to the crispy texture.

Razor clams with bacon vinaigrette
Razor clams with bacon vinaigrette
Crispy pork belly
Crispy Kurobuta pork belly

Overall with 2 visits, I was pleased with the service as they were prompt and friendly. As long as one does not expect fine dining, the food certainly does not disappoint as there are 3 dishes out of 4 that I would order again. The creative use of ingredients and extensive food and drinks menu featuring local and great beers along with a variety of locally sourced ingredients definitely make this restaurant one that visitors should visit when in Salt Lake City!

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