Tin Angel Cafe - Where meal time is not just savored, but celebrated.

 

Much too often, meal time is a hurried affair. From food that has been hastily prepared to family members that are too busy watching television to converse with one another, it seems that eating has become more of a chore than an enjoyed, savored activity. At the Tin Angel Cafe, meal time is not only savored, it is celebrated. Located just off of Pioneer Park in downtown Salt Lake City, the Tin Angel has been a fixture in Utah's dining scene for many years and has garnered much acclaim as a restaurant that challenges standards to create a dining experience that is completely unique and genuine.

I experienced this uniqueness firsthand when I vistied the Tin Angel on a recent night. From the moment I entered the quaint restaurant, I recognized it's very laid-back, bohemian vibe. Bright colors are smeared on every wall and abstract art pieces created by local artisans add even more color to an already vibrant ambiance. Quirky decorations sit atop every surface and mellow, acoustic live music is a fixture at the cafe on most days of the week. As the waiter showed my guest and I to our table, I could not help but notice the aroma that permeated throughout the small space. The air predominately smelled of fresh vegetables and slow-cooked meats with other subtle smells like red wine and basil present as well. The smell was inviting. not overwhelming and was the perfect percursor to the delightful meal that would soon follow.

The waiter helped me navigate the extensive menu; giving excellent recommendations and politely answering every question I shot his way. Every staff member I encountered at the restaurant was friendly and unassuming, having perfectly mastered the art of being helpful and attentive without being pushy. The cuisine of the restaraunt can be described as American and features a variety of eclectic and upscale tapas, pastas, sandwiches and entrees. The menu consists of familiar dishes such as penne pomodoro and chicken picatta and more exotic fare such as wild boar and loin of lamb. The cafe prides themselves on the freshness of their food and strives to serve only locally grown, organic ingredients.

I started off my meal with a round of tapas. Tapas are a traditional Spanish style of food that roughly translates to mean "small plates". Tapas are similar to appetizers and are meant to give you just one or two bites of a specific dish. My waiter explained that people will often come into the cafe and order a meal completely comprised of tapas. This enables guests to experience a wide variety of flavors and textures in just one meal.

Our first tapa dish to arrive was the speck wrapped shrimp ($3) which is proscuitto wrapped prawn grilled and drizzled with apricot champagne vinaigrette. The shrimp was beautifully presented on an ornate plate and tasted smokey and homey. It was a more supscale version of something you might taste at a friend's backyard barbecue.

We continued the tapas round with the espresso crusted beef tenderloin ($4) that is prepared with a port wine reduction and bleu cheese. The meat was perfectly cooked and the espresso that was encrusted into the tenderloin gave it texture and substance. The entire dish was complemented by the tanginess of the bleu cheese and richness of the port wine reduction.

The Tin Angel also offers a copule of special tapas every night that are not on the menu. We decided upon a spinach and goat cheese puff pastry ($6) that was light and flakey and was garnished with small strips of duck breast. The duck was succulent and rich and served as a good contrast to the sweetness of the puff pastry.

Even though I was already quite full from the round of tapas, my hunger gained force again as I listened to the waiter's description of some of their signature entrees. My guest and I decided to share the black angus tenderloin ($27) that is served with a carmelized onion bread pudding and fresh baby vegetables. Even though the tenderloin was juicy and cooked to perfection, the onion bread pudding was the star of the dish. The savory side dish had a creamy interior and slightly crispy exterior that was very pleasing to the palate and left me wanting more.

To end an alredy staisfying meal. we had the fruit bread pudding for dessert. This dish, which is one of their most poplular, definitely lives up to the hype. The bread pudding ($6) had a crispy, fine outer crust and a rich inner filling that was complimented by fresh fruit and a creamy glaze.

Even though the food at Tin Angel Cafe is a bit pricey, I gladly paid it because the atmosphere of the restaurant allowed me to take a break from my busy day and enjoy good conversation and tasty food.

--by Allison Johnson for NowUtah.