Maurice Sainte Yves has had, literally, a cult following since he arrived in Utah from San Francisco several years ago. His local reputation as a chef was almost legendary at colorful and creative places like Confetti and Cafe Deluxe. Not only were these noteworthy for their inventive cuisine, but also because they were both relatively short-lived.
Some cynics wondered whether Sainte Yves was just a flash in the pan. Others suggested that his reputation was based more on his elusiveness than his food. Another fellow restaurant critic, caught in a similar frame of mind, called me one night and asked, "Whatever happened to Maurice what's-his-name?"But Sainte Yves is back, overseeing the kitchen at the Riverhorse Cafe in Park City. The menu features seafood and pasta specials with the flair and skill that earned Sainte Yves the loyal following of local dining out fans. Sainte Yves is especially confident that he is here to stay. His current partners are the hardworking brother and sister team of David and Susan Harries, operators of the well-established Park Cafe, across from Liberty Park.
The Riverhorse Cafe seems to spread out over Park City's Main Street. The view from the spacious patio adjacent to the similarly roomy interior dining area offers glimpses of old time history and a bit of the chic that is uniquely Park City. There is little ornamentation inside or out. A bag of mesquite propped open one door and fresh flowering plants dot the tables. Except for the blue sky and the rainbow of desserts from the display case at the entrance, there is little color in the decor.
The Riverhorse Cafe's menu reflects the same directness and cool confidence. Various tastes and textures are combined; yet the different dishes are uncomplicated and enticing rather than intimidating and overwhelming.
We lapped up a lunch serving (which doubled as an appetizer for dinner) of the garlic sausage ($5.95), rounds of mild garlic sausage, chunks of new potatoes, all drenched in a lemon butter sauce. The delicacy of another appetizer, pate with hazelnuts ($5.50) prompted a more civilized and sedate response. Both were delicious.
Similar gustatory appreciation resulted from one of the specials, large pasta shells filled with crabmeat, floating in a piquant sea of fresh Roma tomato sauce. Another successful entree was the subdued cold salmon ($8.95), garnished with sun-dried tomato mayonnaise.
An early bird special, garlic roasted chicken ($6.95) and a large bowl of cream of asparagus soup ($3.25) accentuated with creme fraiche, were also very satisfying.
Our attentive and well-informed waitress made several suggestions, but even with her guidance, making our selections was hard. Choices such as the summer chicken salad ($5.95), served with berries and vegetables in a coconut vinaigrette; broiled scallops ($5.50), on a bed of spinach and polenta and topped with a puree of sweet Holland peppers; chicken modesto ($10.50); braised chicken breast with sage, prosciutto and tomato; and seafood stew, ($10.95) cooked in a broth with tomato, basil, fennel, stretch conventional tastes. However, we felt nudged rather than confronted as we embarked on our wonderful gastronomic journey at the Riverhorse Cafe. And we were glad to have Sainte Yves as our guide.
Riverhorse Cafe, 540 Main Street, (Old Masonic Hall), Park City. 649-3536. Open for lunch, Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. till 3 p.m. Dinner served Tuesday through Saturday, 5:30 till 10 p.m. Brunch Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. till 3 p.m. Checks and major credit cards accepted.