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Dining out: Chef's Table

Published: Thursday, Sept. 9 2004 12:00 a.m. MDT

Chef's Table is aptly named.

This decidedly fine-dining restaurant has all the hallmarks of an upscale place: linen on the tables, fine art on the walls, soft lighting, service that is unbelievably welcoming, efficient and thorough.

But whether it's the fireplace glowing with the flames of huge candles, the mellow piano music or the sight of executive chef/owner Kent Anderson walking around the dining room to make sure everyone is having a good meal, there's a homey vibe about Chef's Table.

You really feel as if you might be in the home of one of the best cooks you know, waiting for him to bring out something wonderful for you to try.

The food might have a little to do with it, as well: classics of fine dining, carefully prepared, with a few nouveau touches to keep things exciting.

When we ate at the Chef's Table on a recent weekend evening, our waiter (just moments after our hostess draped our napkins in our laps for us) brought out a dollop of palate-cleansing sorbet for each of us. We enjoyed letting its cool, fruit-and-mint tones scrub our tongues.

We started with the seafood wontons and carpaccio of beef tenderloin. The carpaccio was a plate of thin-sliced, seared but very rare tenderloin with generous shavings of Parmesan cheese and a little olive oil drizzled on top. We scooped the meat and cheese onto rounds of bruschetta and enjoyed its pure, strong flavors and silky texture. Eating beef practically raw like this is a salutary reminder of how good it can taste.

The crispy browned wontons were filled with a fine-textured stuffing of scallops, salmon, shrimp and herbs and topped with an "Asian-inspired" dipping sauce that tasted most like soy sauce; that is, dark-flavored and quite salty. I could have used a bit less of the sauce on my wontons, although it did deepen their flavor.

My husband had a fresh and simple dinner salad with chunky blue cheese dressing, and I had the French onion soup, a quite different version than I've had elsewhere.

The broth was thick and very intensely flavored. Most French onion soup is lighter and sweeter than the version at Chef's Table, with the natural harshness of raw onions mellowed by cooking. Here, the bitterness remained, ripened by beef flavors.

Because I mentioned to our waiter that I'd had a hard time deciding between the French onion and roasted red pepper soups, he brought me a ramekin of the latter to try. I wish I'd had more of it. It was one of the nicest soups I've ever had, mellow but full of sweet-peppery flavor, with a fine, pebbly texture.

My husband's entree, the prosciutto-stuffed chicken, could have been heavy but was instead deliciously light, with chicken hand-rolled around prosciutto ham and Swiss cheese, then cooked in a tender breading and served over rice.

My meal, the filet Oscar, featured beef tenderloin stuffed with Alaskan crab and served in a pool of hollandaise sauce, with vegetables and gratin potatoes on the side.

I worried that the hearty beef would diminish the shredded crab, but it more than held its own, with strong, sweet flavors that nicely complemented the delicious meat. The strongly flavored cheesy potatoes and steamed mixed vegetables were a fitting accompaniment.

Chef's Table doesn't consider dessert an afterthought. The hazelnut chocolate dome was a shining half-sphere of perfect, light but deeply flavored chocolate mousse, served in a pool of raspberry sauce over dense flourless chocolate cake. Why don't more restaurants offer mousse, one of the best ways to experience chocolate? Maybe they can't make it as well as Chef's Table.

The apple beggar's purse was a fun and classic package: firm roasted apples flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and cream cheese in a compact phyllo "purse," with vanilla cream and apple caramel sauces. Those sweet-creamy-tangy flavors lingered on my tongue long after we'd finished our meal, as did the good feelings born of our exceptional experience at Chef's Table.

Appetizers $6-$12, vegetarian entrees and salads, $9-$14, entrees $15-$32, desserts $6-$12.


Chef's Table

Rating: *** 1/2

Where: 2005 S. State, Orem

Hours: Lunch: Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Dinner: Monday-Thursday 5 p.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Closed Sunday

Payment: Checks, credit cards

Reservations: Accepted

Phone: 235-9111

Web: www.chefstable.net


Stacey Kratz is a free-lance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com