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Restaurant Review: “Chef Tito’s Best” worth a try

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During the golf season, the Clubhouse Grill is an upscale burger bar as might be anticipated, located as it is inside the Thanksgiving Point golf course clubhouse at 3300 W. Clubhouse Drive in Lehi.

However, beginning on Dec. 8, the location has been playing host to “Chef Tito’s Best at the Clubhouse Grill,” a pop-up restaurant concept featuring “fine dining” on Fridays and Saturdays for 12 weeks.

My husband and I made a visit on Saturday (Dec. 16). This operation is in the same location as the in-season grill, but now has linen tablecloths and napkins plus holiday floral centerpieces and background music to set the mood for what was to come.

We were seated immediately and presented with a menu for the four-course meal. The first course is the same for all diners, but our menu featured four options for each of the other threecourses: appetizer, entrée and dessert.

The menu will be different each weekend but includes typical beverage selections to accompany the meal.

Our first course, called an “Amuse Bouche,” was a steak and onion empanada with sauce spots of French onion and cilantro gel, served on a bed of lightly-dressed cabbage with a sprig of cilantro on top.

The empanada was perfectly crispy on both sides. The two sauces were quite different, but both complimented the star of the course. Hot rolls with a flavored butter were brought while we waited for our next course.

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All of the options on the rest of the menu sounded intriguing, but we both selected clam and chorizo chowder for our appetizer.

It was served with drops of two different oils on top plus a baked pinwheel flavored with Old Bay, a spice blend created in Baltimore MD to complement seafood from the Chesapeake Bay, and topped with fresh herbs.

The soup was the perfect temperature to be eaten right away and had a pleasant but not overpowering hint of heat. The meats were perfectly balanced, and the potatoes were tender but not mushy, as they should be.

We were then brought a palate cleanser, a dollop of mango-pineapple sorbet with a leaf of fresh mint made in-house. It was delightfully refreshing and did exactly what it was supposed to do.

We took different directions for our main course. I chose the smoked lamb ragu and my husband ordered the Caribbean Creole shrimp.

The ragu was served on a bed of cauliflower risotto with mint gremolata breadcrumbs and more fresh herbs. All of the components were delicious and made a very tasty combination.

The shrimp came with mofongo tots (made with plantain), cilantro mojo gel and spicy mayoketchup for sauces. There was also roasted brussels sprouts and a nested garnish on the plate. The flavors were true to their names and satisfied my husband’s craving for the Gulf specialties he grew up with.

For dessert, I selected a gingerbread waffle with coconut ice cream and a berry compote. It was liberally sprinkled with warm spices and was served with a fresh mint leaf and a strawberry candy stick, as beautiful to look at as it was tasty to eat.

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My husband chose the churros and chocolate, which were not the monstrosities sold at stadiums but rather a small pile of delicate pastry strings tossed in cinnamon sugar and served with a couple of smears of dark chocolate and “Abuelita’s Mexican cinnamon hot chocolate” with whipped cream on top.

I didn’t ask Chef if this was really his grandmother’s recipe or the commercial version, but again, my husband certified that the flavors were just right for what the dish was called. We were brought a final small treat, similar to a good bite of baklava, to finish off the meal.

Those who frequent fine dining establishments know that they can expect elegant food but usually very small portions. We were surprised by how filling this meal was. The portions were by no means diner-sized, but they were more substantial than we anticipated and left us quite satiated.

Also unexpected were the flavor combinations offered on the menu, but it all made sense after we spent some time talking to Chef Tito, who also tries to surprise patrons even with the items on his classic grill menu.

He was born in Puerto Rico and received his culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu, the classic French cooking school. After graduation, he trained in competitive and accomplished kitchens like Stein Eriksen Lodge, Marriott Hotels, Le Parisien, La Monica's Italian Restaurant, and many others.

He had restaurants in multiple locations, drawing his menus from the world of creative fusion, and later worked at several private establishments in Utah before accepting his current position. He said he’s using this new opportunity to showcase his favorite recipes from all cuisines.

“I like to give people something they aren’t expecting,” he told us. “I like to experiment with different flavor combinations that don’t fall into conventional culinary categories. My passion has always been in creative fusion, and Caribbean cuisines in particular.”

The meals we had certainly reflect this outlook, and we were very favorably impressed with the results. The cost is a flat $60 per diner, which is quite reasonable for the food and service we received. This restaurant fills a niche in the area that has been empty for some time.

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Recommended reservations are available on Friday and Saturdays only between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Call 801-768-7415 to snag your table.

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