Moab, Utah (last visit: May 2009).
Moab is a tourist town. Convenient to national parks and all sorts of outdoor activities, it offers pretty much what you'd expect: lots of fast food stops, along with cute or quirky sounding places serving plain fare. Gourmet restaurants? Not so much. However, a couple of places are sometimes mentioned as having worthy menus. One of those is the Desert Bistro.
The menu is small but ambitious, offering complex creations of fish and game, as well as the more usual meats and fowl. Exact choices vary, but you may find rabbit, buffalo, deer, elk and antelope listed.
The restaurant is part of an old ranch house; a stained glass panel above the front door says 1896. There are two small dining rooms, holding around 40 people, plus a patio. The room I was in had honey colored wood plank floors, large windows, white wainscoting and mint green walls above. Music played softly in the background.
Service was very friendly and warm. It was also efficient.
I began with smoked homemade rabbit sausage with breaded goat cheese over roasted fennel, saffron and Frangelico:
A single circle of tender, lean sausage had good flavor, but would have been dry if served alone. However, this wasn't a problem. Atop the sausage a similarly sized circle of breaded fried goat cheese, gooey and moist, was a very good counterbalance. Overall, a very good dish, but the sauce deserves special mention. It was delicious; I used up two pieces of bread soaking it up.
As an entrée, I chose a special - pan seared antelope medallions with plum, whiskey and habanero demi-glacé, corn pancakes and grilled, marinated vegetables:
It consisted of three generous pieces of antelope, served medium rare as recommended. The meat was lean, chewy, with a flavor slightly stronger than beef. Underneath were two large, thick corn fritters with white corn kernels. The sauce was a little spicy. It was an ambitious dish, the combination of ingredients worked, and it was good enough, but not memorable.
I like that the menu offers game. I like that the chef is ambitious. I like the atmosphere. I like the food well enough. Given that it's located in the food wilderness, it definitely deserves consideration for a special meal.
The meal was $52, plus tax and tip.
Index of Restaurants