60 E. 800 South, Salt Lake City
385.528.3675 || theeklektik.com
Monday–Wednesday: 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Thursday–Saturday: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Summer took its sweet time getting into gear this time around. But now that we’re finally swinging full into the feels of patio hangouts, late-night bike rides and bonfires, it’s important to remember the food filling you up before these potentially booze-soaked kickbacks. Restaurateurs Aliza Levy and Sion Croudo have lived through the summers of Mexico City and San Diego, and it feels only right to highlight their recent Salt Lake City endeavor, the artful Latino-fusion flavors that comprise The Eklektik.
The eclecticism concept takes hold by picking and pulling from all ends of the world. It’s no surprise that the now year-old restaurant’s atmosphere would be tastefully doused with an artsy sensory ambiance, upon one of the holiest grounds in Utah dive-bar history—what used to be The Woodshed. Entering the dining space, the youth in this writer yearns for questionable motifs, punk shows and Big Buck Hunter. Filling that void is a homey yet simultaneously whitewash-clean vibrance that beckons one to tour the art before sitting down to read the menu. This pull is experienced through a giant window transfusing reality from the screen of an iPhone camera, a wall of world travels, a mural of Frida Kahlo bleeding rainbows of paint through her eyes and completed by bits of severed mannequins throughout the room. It’s in this structure of chaotic beauty that we are now ready to take a seat at our equally unique table, surrounded by multifaceted varieties and colors of chairs. It’s time to eat.
First Things First is the title of the appetizer menu, and we kick off the meal with tamarind-infused tea ($3), Nonna’s Tomato & Basil Cream soup topped with goat cheese ($9) and a side of hibiscus flautas to keep it light (Veggie Trio $15 in Our Veggie Side, Never Been Here Bonanza in Shareables $21). For those who have never enjoyed the delights of drinkable tamarind, done right, it brings out everything refreshing that one could want from a hot summer day with just enough sweetness to balance out the palate. Adding depth to the cool liquid at hand is the soup. Roasted bell peppers, a plethora of chopped herbs and a melted slice of goat cheese turn this soup into a richly complex play of texture and soulfulness that could easily be enjoyed at any time of year. A general gustatory problem with eating full vegetarian is that the fatty aspects of all their dishes need special attention, as it must be added for the average human to be content. The goat cheese from the soup keeps your attention, but lightly fried flautas in olive oil seal the deal. Eating hibiscus sounds weird to me, as I’d imagine it may to most people, and, being a carnivore, I’m still perplexed as to how The Eklektik has managed to make a flower taste like a giant pulled-pork taquito. Vegans, take note, because everything you thought you knew is a lie.
Now, entrées. Moving any further, it’s important to note that this restaurant is best experienced with friends. Everything up to this point has been prepared and served unpretentiously with an authentic appreciation for the potential of every ingredient. Be prepared to get communal with those at your table, because nothing should be left untasted. This is a good time to order the Patatas Bravas Al & Son ($13, in Shareables). Again, veggie people, this patata should be the only way people eat a potato—fried up and covered in a rehydrated red-chile paste of garlic, tomatoes and peppers turned saucy. With just the right amount of heat to forget that you’re in Utah, the layers of chile at play here are from a chef who knows the roots of classic Latin American cooking and how they made their way into a New Mexico chile colorado and, apparently, the Beehive State. It’s incredibly inexplicable that the righteousness of such a bittersweet sauce is able to fuse this simple dish into a mending of the heart.
At this point, the tea is close to cubes, and there’s a need to finish the night off with more sugar. Now is the time for Zita’s Citrus Tiramisu ($9) and probably a cup of coffee. Not to say that baking talent in Utah is being misused, but what Utah may sometimes lack in baking technique, Eklektik picks up the slack with dangerously accurate stabs of lime zest in their cakes. There’s just something to revel in how delicately these cake layers are stacked between an airy mousse, speckled in neon-green citrus.
However you look at it, this state is well-versed in attracting an endless variety of cultures who leave their marks in our culture through heritage and creative expression. Over time, this ecosystem has cultivated and reshaped its identity into the melting pot of ideas, which transform and continue to make us reevaluate the next step. If there’s a word for that, it’s Eklektik.