Chef’s Table

The place: Chef’s Table, right off State Street between Provo and Orem, at 2005 South State Street, Orem, UT 84097

Contact info: online at http://chefstable.net/, on Facebook, by phone at (801) 235-9111

Reservations: Yes

Hours: 

  • Lunch/Dinner:  Mon – Fri / 11 – 2, 5 – 10
  • Dinner:  Sat / 5 – 10

About: Fresh, creative, local, energetic, passionate — this is how we would describe the feel of Chef’s Table. Come and see what we mean. Source: Chef’s Table website, http://chefstable.net/fine-dining/owners/, edited by author.

The ambiance: This is fine dining at, well, its finest. The exterior is fairly misleading, and you’ll probably end up surprised at how large and roomy it is once you enter. The tables are all set with linens and water goblets, and there is a lovely view of Provo from one of the back rooms. It’s clear the entire staff has been well trained on how to provide for each diner an excellent experience, and they are both attentive and stay out of the way; you never feel hovered over nor do you feel neglected.

Photo courtesy of Chef's Table on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/chefstableutah/photos_stream

Photo courtesy of Chef’s Table on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/chefstableutah/photos_stream

The Munch: Because we went on Valentine’s Day, there was a prix fixe menu, so the offerings might not be what you’ll find if you visit on a regular weeknight. There were five courses, including a sparkling cider toast (during which Husband and I toasted to not killing each other by now), all of which were better than the last. We had:

  • hand made cheese straws with marinated olives
  • fresh baked “stone ground” rolls and Chef’s Table herb butter
  • sparkling cider toast
  • wild mushroom crostini
  • roasted potato bisque
  • tuscan romaine wedge salad
  • mesquite grilled “Ballard Farms” pork rib eye
  • Alaskan halibut with rock shrimp risotto
  • macadamia crusted baby cheesecake
  • chocolate brownie mousse cake

The cheese straws and marinated olives were only okay, but that’s largely because I abhor olives in their many forms, and I’m still fairly unsure as to what their definition of cheese straws actually is. I assumed they’d be made entirely of cheese, but their texture led me to believe otherwise. The rolls were some of the most delicious dinner rolls I’ve ever had in my life, and I was sad when I wasn’t able to lure the young woman back over and steal the entire breadbasket.

The amuse bouche (wild mushroom crostini) was the epitome of a perfect bite of food. Your teeth would sink into the tender mushrooms and basil roast tomato, then meet the satisfying crunch of the crostini, and the goat cheese foam was perfectly balanced — just a little salty and a wonderful texture to offset the rest of the ingredients. It was an eye closer for me, and I rarely have those during a meal.

Wild Mushroom Crostini

Since we were dining together and are more than happy to share our offerings, my husband and I always choose as many options as we can. He ordered the salad, and I ordered the soup, and I was more willing to share mine with his because I am a better person. The potato bisque was velvety smooth and not grainy at all, which can easily happen with such a starchy base. It was topped with crisp bacon, leeks, and a lemon oil, and the flavors melded together really well. The lemon oil added a nice, fresh brightness to the earthy soup, and the bacon and leeks were good, rich additions as well. The romaine wedge salad was also really excellent; the lettuce was crisp and came with a bruschetta vinaigrette, mozzarella, and some of the best aged balsamic I’ve ever tasted. It was equal parts tangy and sweet, and is something I would certainly order if offered.

Tuscan Romaine WedgeRoasted Potato Bisque

There were six entree selections to choose from, and I decided that we should have gone out with two other couples so I could have tasted each. However, neither of us were disappointed with our decisions, as they were remarkably delicious. Husband opted for the pork rib eye, which was served with a BBQ cherry demi-glace, glazed onions, candied sweet potatoes, and roasted broccolini. The portion was quite sizable, but it was still tender and perfectly cooked; the demi-glace was a little smoky and sweet and paired very well with the pork and onions. We gobbled up the candied sweet potatoes before anything else, and the roasted broccolini was also delicious and well cooked — neither burnt nor mushy.

Mesquite Grilled Ballard Farms Pork Loin

My seared halibut was probably some of the most well-prepared fish I’ve had the pleasure of ordering out, which is saying something since I come from the Pacific NW and have eaten at several oceanside restaurants. Halibut is probably my favorite fish, so long as it is prepared correctly, because when it is the flavor is mild and the texture is firm but flaky. It was served atop risotto with rock shrimp and fresh herbs, which was creamy and flavorful, and also came with baby asparagus spears with a hint of lemon. I rarely order asparagus at restaurants because it is often overcooked and thusly mushy (I live in fear of mushy food, as you can probably tell), but this asparagus was fresh and crisp and had a wonderful flavor.

Seared Halibut with Rock Shrimp Risotto

For dessert, there were four options, but I believe we ordered the two best offerings. The cheesecake had an almost ethereal texture, and the macadamia nut crust was a nice departure from regular graham cracker. It was served with a berry compote and sweet cream, both of which were perfect accoutrements to the delicious cheesecake. The chocolate brownie mousse cake had a double brownie base topped with a classic dark chocolate mousse, and the pairing of the rich flavors and differing textures was perfect. I savored each bite and was sad when my plate was empty.

Macadamia Crusted Baby CheesecakeDouble Brownie Mousse cake

The bill: $123.77, including tax and tip. For a five-course meal in a fine dining establishment (particularly one that offered up reasonable portions rather than a few bites of food that forced you to go through the drive-thru on your way home), this felt like a steal. If ordering from the everyday menus, however, expect to pay somewhere around $20 a person for lunch and $40 a person for dinner, although that price can fluctuate depending upon whether you opt for appetizers, salads, soups, and/or desserts.

Total score: 10/10. This is only the second perfect score I have issued to a restaurant in Utah county, but I found no fault in the ambiance, service, or food at Chef’s Table. It was a perfect dining experience, and I look forward to joining them again.

La Jolla Groves

The Place: La Jolla Groves, in the Shops at Riverwoods, at 4801 N University Ave #610, Provo, UT 84604

Contact info: online at http://lajollagroves.com, on Facebook, by phone at (801) 224-5111

Reservations: Yes

Hours: 

  • Lunch/Dinner:  Mon – Thurs / 11 – 9
  • Lunch/Dinner:  Fri & Sat / 11 – 9:30

About: Our first inspiration for La Jolla Groves came to us, late one evening, while visiting the Isle of Capri. We found ourselves dining under the canopy of a lemon grove, drinking garden-fresh lemonade made from the very trees we sat under.

Upon returning home, we longed to again visit that magical place, enjoying the vibrant tastes and alluring atmosphere of Capri. It was then that we determined to create such a place of our own. We partnered with a world-class chef and started on the adventure of building La Jolla Groves.

We worked tirelessly to achieve INSANELY GOOD FOOD using HEALTHIER INGREDIENTS, all at an affordable price. With our garden-fresh, wholesome food, kind staff & charming atmosphere among a grove of lemon trees, we’ve created a dining experience that transplants you to a starry night-out on the Isle of Capri. Source: La Jolla Groves website, http://lajollagroves.com/about.html

Photo courtesy of La Jolla Groves on Facebook
(https://www.facebook.com/lajollagroves)

The ambiance: Sitting underneath a grove of lemon trees (artificial, of course) is actually a really lovely dining experience. It makes things feel a little more al fresco, a little more intimate. Everything about La Jolla Groves, from the flooring to the menus, indicates it will provide for you an excellent fine dining experience. I’ve been twice; the first time underneath those lovely trees, the second time in a back room without lemon trees (I preferred the first visit for a number of reasons). The back room admittedly felt a little like Olive Garden or Romano’s Macaroni Grill, since it didn’t have the personalized, unique touch of the front dining area.

The Munch: My husband and I went to La Jolla Groves with my parents; I’d been one other time and was so pleased with the experience that I felt certain my family would enjoy it just as much as I had. Knowing the pasta dishes and desserts were remarkably tasty, I stuck with that. For this review, I’ll extrapolate on all four orders, since I was lucky enough to taste each. We ordered:

  • balsamic marinated stuffed mushrooms
  • mushroom soup
  • cheese tortellini with bacon and garden peas
  • pair of beef tenderloin and chicken marsala sandwiches
  • chicken pot pie
  • lemon roasted chicken

We’re not really a family who orders appetizers, but when it comes to stuffed mushrooms, we’re generally more than happy to make an exception. While most stuffed mushrooms are smallish and filled with some sort of seasoned pork sausage, these were vegetarian-friendly, literally stuffed with fresh herbs, oodles of gorgonzola cheese that oozed with every bite, and served atop fresh greens tossed in a pesto oil, balsamic vinaigrette. These were the stuffed mushrooms to beat all other stuffed mushrooms. The cheese to mushroom ratio was probably about 2:1, which is entirely appropriate when it comes to … food, and the pesto oil, balsamic vinaigrette was light, fresh, and provided just enough sweetness to cut through the salty cheese and herbs.

Unfortunately, for the cost, we weren’t really provided with enough appetizer to feel anything short of slightly robbed. For $7.95, we got three stuffed mushrooms, and for that priced I’d hoped for at least four (since there were four of us) or, say, eight.

The mushroom soup was undeniably delicious and could probably make a believer out of any mushroom hater; it was thick, luxurious, and had an excellent mushroom taste. It was garnished with a basil oil, which added a good richness, and to top it all off, it was served in the most delightful little porcelain pot with a lid. If I return, I’ll order the mushroom soup.

Photo courtesy of La Jolla Groves on Facebook
(https://www.facebook.com/lajollagroves)

All of the entrees were very good, although some were far better than others. The lemon roasted chicken, ordered by my father, was everyone’s favorite. The lemon sauce was nice and bright, clearly made with fresh lemon juice, but it wasn’t so acidic that you were left puckering your lips. The tender, succulent chicken was served atop some of the creamiest whipped potatoes I’ve ever had and alongside steamed vegetables. I think by the end of the night, the rest of us wished we’d ordered the exact same thing.

Photo courtesy of La Jolla Groves on Facebook
(https://www.facebook.com/lajollagroves)

The chicken pot pie was less of a pie and more of a creamy chicken and vegetable filling topped with star-shaped phyllo dough cut-outs and came with a side salad. The filling was very homey and comforting, and the phyllo was crisp and light. The salad was fairly non-descript, but it was a side salad, so we didn’t expect much.

My cheese tortellini left something to be desired. My first few bites seemed extremely delicious; the applewood smoked bacon paired nicely with the sharp, salty fresh parmesan and the fresh garden peas, but the creamy tomato sauce had an odd aftertaste, and the cheese tortellini was akin to something you might buy out of the refrigerated case at the grocery store. I ate everything but wished I’d ordered something different (like, say, the lemon roasted chicken).

Husband ordered the sandwiches, which were the equivalent of fine dining sliders, and the flavors were intense and delicious. They came with a side of crispy, well seasoned hand-cut fries, which were probably the highlight of the entire meal. Sliders are, after all, just sliders.

For dessert we shared two; the orange creme brulee and the chocolate bundt cake. Admittedly, I’d eaten the chocolate bundt cake before, and it’s one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever had. With a dark, rich molten center and a few drops of sweet (but not cloying) vanilla sauce on the side, it is the epitome of dessert perfection. The orange creme brulee had a sweet, citrus flavor and smooth, creamy texture. Both are must haves if you eat at La Jolla Groves.

Unfortunately, one thing overshadowed the deliciousness of the meal and the enjoyment of the ambiance: our server dropped a couple plates on my father’s arm. That, in and of itself, wasn’t too problematic (although salad dressing ended up all over his shirt sleeves and lettuce all over his side of the table). What left a bad taste in our mouths afterward was the lack of compensation. No discount on dinner, no free dessert, no certificate for a return visit. Although the server was extremely apologetic and attended to the situation very quickly, it didn’t entirely make up for what Husband and I considered to be bad customer service. If you drop dishes on one of us, we’d like a free dessert at the least. I don’t think this is unreasonable or out of the ordinary; I daresay most people would expect something similar.

The bill: Undisclosed to Husband and me, although I believe with tax and tip it hovered around $100. To cut down on costs, you can skip the appetizer and only order one dessert to split.

Total score: This is two-part for me. Had the evening gone flawlessly, I would have given them an 8/10, but given the accident, I have to rate them at around 6/10. I am undecided as to whether I will return.