Dining A taste of heaven at Tin Angel

by: William Hampton

Sunday, August 19, 2007

When I walked up to the Tin Angel Café at 8:50 last Thursday evening, I was almost startled away by the 9 p.m. closing time. Turns out, seating stops at 9 but customers are happily served until whenever.

With Jingo Boa playing tropical-sounding Brazilian music on the spacious patio, the place had an almost coffee house feel. Our cheerful, onthe-ball server, Kestrel, told me the café has live music every Friday — and whenever else they can round up a gig. They even offer a text-messaging service to keep guests apprised of upcoming acts.

The menu is spendy but mouth-watering. As many ingredients as possible are organic and obtained locally; the Angel is a frequent shopper at the Farmers’ Market in across-the-way Pioneer Park.

The list of “appetizers or small dishes” include Shrimp-Stuffed Mushrooms ($8) — crimini mushrooms filled with roasted sweet peppers, “farm-raised White Shrimp,” manchego cheese and organic spinach. I was sold. The sweet peppers turned out to be the dominant flavor, but in a delicious way.

Both Kestrel and a patron recommended the vegetable risotto. Like the other veggie dishes served here, Kestrel assured me, cooks are meticulous about keeping meat out, including meat broth. And there is much vegetarian-friendly fare to be had.

With a description that includes “shaved truffle,” the risotto nearly had me — but I knew my destiny entailed meat. Namely, the Beef Tenderloin: 6 ounces of beef grilled to our exact specifications (medium rare; who gets that right? These guys do) and topped with brie cream, caramelized shallots and sprigs of fresh rosemary. The steak is served with roasted potatoes and baby carrots.

Ordinarily, I treat side veggies as garnish and play Pass the Parsley with my dining mates. In this case, I couldn’t get enough of the olive-oilcoated, herb-treated morsels. Purple potatoes exist within the confines of nature? And they melt in your mouth? And they grow here in Utah? The hell you say.

I’d be remiss not to mention the Angel’s bottomless Black Mint Iced Tea ($1.50), which is superb. Skip the sugar; the only enhancing you’ll need is an affectionate squeeze from the lemon wedge it comes with.

Now let’s talk about interior design. The Angel is in the former Wild Mushroom Pizza building, but they’ve spruced it up and knocked down some walls. Now the kitchen is a semi-open, thin strip along the back; the rest is open for dining.

The walls boast quirky, mixed-media art by Justin Angelos. I learned that the Tin Angel is listed as a site on the Gallery Stroll, and they plan on rotating artists for the occasion. Better yet, a plan is in the mix to start offering light specialty dishes on third Fridays so people passing through can assuage their more basic needs before going on to indulge their aesthetic ones.

Speaking of basic needs, the men’s and women’s rooms are delineated by beautiful, shadow-box-style art pieces of a man and a woman. Art in form and function; this is my kind of place.

Situated around the corner from Club Vegas and Area 51, and down the street from Port O’ Call and its neighbors, this could be the place for pre-club fare. Whether you’re dancing or Strolling afterward, the Angel is a living reminder that a restaurant can have an eye on aesthetics without waxing pretentious.