Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Park City Dining: Talisker on Main: A Love Letter


Menu, or Book of Magic?
I'd heard that it was great. I'd heard it said that Talisker on Main had provided a meal of a lifetime. I've heard it before about plenty of other restaurants and had yet to meet a place that really lived up to the hype. Sometimes the teller had just been talking through a lack of experience, or was remembering their meal through a haze of wine, or both. Other times the food, or the presentation, or the service, or the atmosphere was off just enough to keep the experience from achieving that evangelism-inducing  "WOW" that "we who love food as others can not" are forever seeking. Sometimes everything has been right and I've left the restaurant satisfied; ecstatic and drunk on flavors, sights and smells. Somehow still the "WOW" evaded me. Somehow there was yet, somewhere, something more. Not always, mind you, but some of the time.

You see where this is going.

I could tell you about the opening cocktail, a Sazerac variation called Toronto and made with Park City's own High West Rendezvous Rye and Fernet Branca, but that wouldn't tell you anything. I could tell you about the duck rillettes starter, served with Tagge's peaches, Snowy Mountain sheep's cheese, and salted peanut croquant. I could tell you of my long-held love of duck and duck rillettes, and how I don't have words to describe the rillettes placed before me that evening. I could tell you about the plate containing both a tender lamb chop and an enchanting lamb meatloaf topped with a delightful dollop of tomato jam as well as charred eggplant, cilantro, cauliflower, and shishito peppers. I could tell you that they grow their produce in a rooftop garden. It wouldn't mean a thing to you. I could tell you that the glass of wine I was too busy enjoying my meal to write down was, in fact, just right. I could tell you about the just-attentive-enough service; the comfortable decor and atmosphere. I could talk about Salt Lake Magazine's Best Restaurant (Park City) Award for three consecutive years. I could go on.

Sure, you might say, I'm sure that it was quite an experience.

Yes. It was also something more. Something more indeed.

On the list of misused words, and over-used as well, is "astonishment". To be truly astonished one must be greatly surprised; not shocked or startled, but surprised in a great and revelatory way. I'd heard the stories, I'd seen the menu on their web site. There was nothing on it that I haven't enjoyed in some preparation or other before. I've been dining out most of my fifty-something life, at times in grander settings than the simple, cozy, wood-heavy dining room at Talisker. There should have been no surprises, and yet, by the time I had put down my after-dinner glass of Lagavulin 16 my wife and I were both, fully and completely, astonished. We were giddy. We were energized, and it wasn't from alcohol. My wife, in fact, hadn't drank anything at all. Our experience at Talisker on Main of Park City, Utah had lifted us up to a place that few experiences have, or could have, taken us. We thanked the staff and the chef as if they had pulled us from wreckage as we took our leave.

I can count on one hand the times I've felt astonishment: a Wayne Shorter concert that made a sober man feel ecstatically drugged, my first trips to San Francisco and London ... I could tell you more, but it wouldn't mean anything to you. Maybe I'm lying. Maybe I'm a shill. Or, perhaps, if you believe me, I've already said too much and I've ruined the surprise. I hope that isn't the case.