There I was in Sugarhouse advancing upon a well known modern landmark, the Dodo Restaurant. I was dreaming how my experience would play out, because their reputation seems to be secure around the dessert arena, but what about their dinner menu? As I walked into a crowded lobby, I noticed there were groups of families, dates, friends … and without a doubt it seemed clear that everyone belonged there. Yup, this is a place where my guest could see her husband and herself going out for a date night, or choosing as a girl’s night out destination. The dark wooden floors added a depth to the modern space and without diminishing the openness of the restaurant. Somehow the fluorescent hot pink lighting went well with the quirky dodo paintings and deep maroon walls. Staff members were all engaged at their tables – nobody was loitering around and soon enough we would acknowledge that even though the tables were close to each other, we didn’t feel like everyone around could listen in on our conversation. My guest and I felt comfortable.
In short, the chef had it going on the night we visited. Please allow me to explain, most of the time when I hear the word “special” I chalk it up to…we gotta get rid of these ingredients before they turn. Well, well, well… the Dodo proved that thought wrong. The chef satisfied my demanding palate. The presentation of the dishes was colorful, had clean edges, and featured fresh ingredients. The flavors of every dish boosted with pizzazz. The only knit-picky thing I walked away with is: I could have skipped the Denny style slice of cantaloupe on our appetizer’s plate.
Speaking of our appetizer, we first ordered the artichoke pie, and, as per a thoughtful suggestion from our server, we substituted the crackers for baguette slices. I can’t imagine this plate any other way. Indeed the bread offered a good balance for the rich combination of …let’s face it – basically cheddar cheese and artichoke hearts.
We both got a side caesar salad and this sucker wasn’t a side: I could have been full with this and a cup of soup. It was beautifully dressed and the lettuce was prepared in manageable bite-sized pieces. If I were on a date, I wouldn’t worry about eating this salad. High five to the Dodo for knowing how to execute this basic.
My guest ordered one of the specials, which was a filet of beef topped with caramelized onion, blue cheese and crispy bacon. It looked out of this world. It came with a side of vegetables and mashed potatoes. My guest reports that, “The food was delicious!!!” Or did she mean the filet? Because she did feel that there were too many vegetables and potatoes, most likely used as plate filler. Even though I am a fan of veggies, I would agree – the Dodo could get away with smaller sized plates and/or small portions. Regardless, she mentioned that the sides were nothing to write home about. The potatoes could have used some seasoning or gravy of some sort. But the star of her dish – the filet mignon – was DIVINE!!! She later told me that, “the meat melted in my mouth. I’m not a big fan of blue cheese so I was somewhat apprehensive, but the flavors together were amazing!!!” No doubt she would absolutely order this again. Um, dear Dodo, can we find out when you are going to offer this as a special again? Or can you let us know if you are going to make this a regular item on the menu?
I was caught between the herb chicken and another special. So, I looked to our server for some guidance and she rallied. I was impressed how she owned her opinions about the menu instead of going for the defaulter, “It’s all good.” She dug into what I was after and voila – I ordered another special: cilantro marinated, bone-in chicken that was presented with a healthy dollop of guacamole and placed over the best tasting chipotle cream sauce. This was all served with a massive helping of jasmine rice and black beans. Again, were the sides a plate filler? My guest and I clearly would have been happy to have less of those items and still pay the same price. When will restaurants learn? Yet, I’m happy to report that the chicken was nice, tender, and juicy. Luckily they didn’t 86 the special before I decided on it and…whew…I got the last one. Again, this dish ought to be on the main menu and not just a special. Dodo, do I have to beg?
And then there was dessert. My meal defeated me, but the Dodo is known for their pies. How could I not have their signature tollhouse pie? Oh right, my stomach was too full, and even though I was considering pretending like it was Thanksgiving and unbuttoning my jeans, I decided to get a slice to go and wear a skirt next visit. My guest also ended up taking home a slice. I have yet to sink my fork into it, but I am looking forward to the opportunity.
The question now becomes, “Can any restaurant make these dishes or is this place one of a kind?” I’m sure another restaurant can give us what we wanted, but no restaurant would give up two meals worth of food for the price of one. Hello leftovers!
Finally, when it came to service, our server was clearly knowledgeable in the specials and all items on the menu that we inquired about. Because of that, I was able to trust her completely, and that isn’t something that happens easily. Again, the server rocked it and made our dining experience what it was – terrific. But, could something have been better for the overall dining experience? Wouldn’t ya know I’ve come up with something. Wanna hear it? It’s a small detail, but it would have been a nice gesture if the hostess were to offer something to drink while we waited for a table for 20 minutes. I mean, the bar was right there in plain view waiting to provide such service.
Rating – Damn, somebody needs to contact the Michelin Man, if they bring the specials onto the regular menu.