The quiet transformation of the Inn at Temple Square from the somewhat forlorn Hotel Temple Square is now complete. With the opening of the Carriage Court Restaurant in November, this small European-style hotel offers a full complement of service for weary travelers and local explorers of Salt Lake City's changing cityscape.
As we walked on the cobblestones through the entry, it was almost impossible to remember the noisy buses that once idled their smoky engines in the same area. The clippity clop of huge horses pulling stately carriages now echoes through the quaint and comfortable foyer.The Carriage Court restaurant, bearing the name of this nostalgic restoration, fits in perfectly with the overall ambience of the hotel - elegant yet modest. Except for some tinny background elevator music, the mood is softly and comfortably understated. We found both the cuisine and cost equally palatable.
Tables are handsomely set with linen and fresh flowers. Street-side windows look out over the bustling diverse population of Salt Lake's downtown. And soon enough, with the assistance of the affable service, our attention was drawn to the engaging menu.
We literally inhaled the mushroom appetizer ($4.50) as inconspicuously as possible. The sauteed petite mushrooms were bathed in a sauce mornay, enhanced with bits of bacon and seasoned with garlic. The French onion soup ($2.50) came to the table piping hot; unfortunately the onions were scorched.
Other appetizers include shrimp cocktail ($4.50); gazpacho ($2.50), topped with asiago cheese; grapes and kasseri cheese; and the fresh fruit plate with lemon and honey yogurt dressing (both $3.50). In retrospect, we should have sampled these last two appetizers for dessert since the earlier wave of symphony-goers wiped clean the Carriage Court's array of sweet treats.
Each of the entrees more than made up for the problems with the soup, as well as the lack of vinegar in the Burgundy vinaigrette house dressing. The poached fresh salmon filet ($16.95), adroitly topped with hollandaise, was succulent. An inventive and appetizing basil pinenut butter sauce topped the grilled rainbow trout ($11.95). The seafood fettucini ($10.95), small bay shrimp, along with pieces of crab and scallop, was covered with a creamy cheese sauce and served atop an ample portion of fettucini.
The breast of chicken Oscar ($12.50) exemplified the reserved yet careful preparations from the Carriage Court's kitchen. The bernaise sauce was expertly done, just barely covering real crab meat and three white asparagus tips perched atop two tender grilled chicken breasts. Either rice or baked potato along with a crunchy winter vegetable medley accompanied each of the entrees.
Because of location and ownership (even the same phone number), some may be tempted to compare the Carriage Court restaurant to the Roof at the Hotel Utah, truly dining on a grand scale. Perhaps avoiding such a comparison is the reason for the understated bill of fare. But those are times long past; current management might consider bringing back the Roof's wonderful hard rolls. Then some of us could relive one special crumb of the city's gastronomic past. The current rolls are barely adequate; an experimental hot baguette of herb buttered bread was considerably better.
Other Carriage Court entrees include baked halibut ($13.95) with dill and lemon butter, charbroiled prawns ($12.95), grilled breast of chicken with wild mushroom sauce ($10.50), medallions of pork tenderloin ($11.95) with a green peppercorn and tomato sauce, filet mignon topped with sauteed oyster mushrooms ($16.95), tournedos, several cuts of prime rib and New York steak.
Light dinner entrees consist of choices such as wilted spinach salad, seafood croissant sandwich, steamed vegetables and pasta, and seafood crepes almondine, each priced between $7 and $9. Nightly specials feature pot roast, pasta specials, shrimp preparations, prime rib and Saturday's "date night" - lobster dinner for two.
The Carriage Court restaurant is a wonderful addition to downtown Salt Lake's dining out scene. Given a bit more time to smooth out its minimal wrinkles, it will offer even more delectable modest pleasures.
Rating: * * * *
The Carriage Court Restaurant, 71 W. South Temple, 531-1000. Lunch served Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.; dinner from 5 until 10 p.m. Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Accepts major credit cards and check with guarantee card.