A ceiling full of paper lanterns, cozy family-style tables, citrus and spiced meat flavors wafting from the kitchen, and smiling faces. This is the atmosphere you will enter when you open the door to one of Salt Lake’s newer restaurants, Plumb Alley.
Plum Alley just opened a few months ago. Ryan Lowder, the genius behind The Copper Onion is also the brains behind the menu at Plum Alley. This fact alone told me I was in for a treat, as The Copper Onion is one of my favorite eateries in Salt Lake. However, you will find a very different flavor, literally and metaphorically, at his new restaurant just a few doors down.
Plum Alley is an Asian inspired restaurant with everything from Steam Bums to Dtom Ka Gai soup. Flavors served here are anything but underwhelming. And, the family style seating makes it really easy to tap your neighbor on the shoulder and ask for a recommendation–which we did. We also gave some ourselves as new guests were seated next to us toward the end of our meal. My first reaction to family style seating is one of “no thanks, I don’t want to have to talk to people I don’t know”….however, something about Plum Alley makes you friendly, and I honestly enjoyed eating in close approximation to others. Go figure!
The menu at Plum Alley is great because you can go all out, or you can taste around and still keep your bill modest. Most things are meant to be shared and come tapa style. Plum Alley has a great selection of wine and beer and some great original cocktails as well (the Pickled Cow sounds interesting with stoli, soju, Worcestershire, and pickled beef…that’s right, pickled beef). I enjoyed a light and refreshing glass of Bouchard Pinot Noir and Russ, that man of mine, kept it classy with a “Larger” can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
I had heard great things about the Steam Buns ($6 for 2), so that was first on our list to try–we started with the Pork Belly. The buns were perfect–spongy and light and the Pork Belly was rich, as I was expecting.
We also ordered the Shrimp and Grits ($7) to start as well. This was a surprising dish, as the shrimp were large with the heads still attached and the ‘grits’ were actually polenta squares. The flavor was mildly spicy, evened out nicely by the polenta. I didn’t even mind pulling the heads off my shrimp. The sauce was rich, creamy, and great for dipping the polenta in.
Of course, I always have to order Dtom Ka Gai soup ($9 for 2) if it is available, because I am obsessed with it. Plum Alley did a fine job–although the flavors were much more complex and spicy than I was expecting. The red chilis hit your mouth like a bomb of fire, however the coconut milk and tender chicken brought the heat back down. It was certainly more intense than your average Dtom Ka Gai, but outstanding.
Next up we ordered the Vermicelli Noodles & Crab ($11). This dish was also different than I was expecting. The crab was fresh and the noddles were light, but the flavor was a little more earthly than I had anticipated. It was good, but probably my least favorite of the items that we ordered. Something about the cilantro, crab, and sauce wasn’t working perfectly for me–but Russ still ate the entire thing, he loved it.
We decided on one last item: the Duck Steam Buns ($6 for 2). These were BY FAR the highlight of our dinner. The duck with the preserved orange was the perfect combo of savory and sweet. I could have not eaten anything else the entire evening and had a wonderful dining experience just with the Duck Steamed Buns–they were phenomenal.
For dessert, who can pass up a homemade donuts? Yeah, not even this girl who has been avoiding sugar at all costs. We had to get one–the folks dining next to us wouldn’t have let us get away with passing it up. Fluffy, not too sweet, lick your fingers, delicious. The dipping sauce was to die for. WORTH EVERY CALORIE! ;)
Check out Plum Alley on 111 East Broadway the next time you are looking for a dining experience that is different, unique, tasty, and fun. Enjoy the atmosphere, the great service, a delightful glass of wine (or even a tall boy of PBR for all you hipster kids), and sit back, chat with some new people, and leave happy and full. We will definitely be going back soon.
111 East Broadway
(please excuse the photo quality in this post–my camera’s battery died upon arrival and I had to resort to my HTC…so frustrating!!)