About 36 miles east of Salt Lake City is the alpine ski resort of Deer Valley, known for its picturesque mountains and gourmet meals. It’s here that we found Chimayo, a local institution headed by Chef Arturo Flores that boasts fresh seasonal ingredients and a Mexican twist on classic Southwestern cuisine.
Upon walking into Chimayo, the first thing we noticed — after the bright lights that line the restaurant’s facade — was the stunning decor. Rustic and relaxed yet undeniably chic, the Mexican tiled floors, warm brick walls, star-shaped lanterns, and a roaring fire all make for an intimate setting that’s instantly inviting. And across two levels are a number of closely set yet very comfortable booths and tables.
We were more than ready for a cozy meal, and our server was quick to reel off the specials, even recommending a few cocktails to get things started. From the five margaritas on the menu, we made sure to get its award-winning house margarita, which riffs on the original with a splash of orange brandy. That citrus twist does a lot of heavy lifting, making what is already a personal favorite into a truly delectable drink.
The only thing better than a margarita is a spicy one, and Chimayo's version comes with muddled fresh serrano chilies. But it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, with the chilies pushing the limits for this table of seasoned spice lovers. Yet, this spicy libation is a perfect pairing for the complimentary soft bread and cilantro sauce and the creamy, rich guacamole Azteca — a must-order, according to our server. He was right.
By this time, our stomachs and taste buds were ready for more. Chef Arturo’s menu is full of unique items, from his grandmother’s recipe for tortilla soup and duck breast enchiladas to a giant ahi tuna taco and stuffed avocados. It was impossible, however, to pass up on the sugarcane elk skewers, complete with a coffee glaze, chipotle creme, and avocado salsa. Sweet and smokey, the elk was both tender and lean.
There wasn’t much of a wait between our starters and entrees, an impressive feat considering the buzzing room had begun to fill up with eager diners. The attention to detail, beautiful presentation, and quality of the food didn’t falter either. The Tierra + Mar fajitas — a generous mix of Kobe steak, jumbo shrimp, and pico de gallo — were juicy and succulent, served with soft corn tortillas that allowed us to sop up every last drop.
However, the barbecued spareribs were the highlight of the meal. The much-reviewed and widely acclaimed dish arrived at our table wrapped tightly together around a cylinder, glazed with a slightly sweet barbecue sauce. Topped with onion rings, mashed potatoes, and chives blooming from the top, it was served bedded in a verde hominy sauce that was in wonderful contrast to the sweetness of the barbecue sauce.
Before heading to Chimayo, we were given just one recommendation: "Leave room for the Mexican chocolate fondue." And so we did. Chunks of lemon pound cake, passionfruit cheesecake, Southwestern brittle, fruit skewers, wedding cookies, and toasted pine nut cookies made for an indulgent end to our feast that would surely satisfy any sweet tooth.
The prices may be relatively high at Chimayo, but what you get in return is an unforgettable experience — one we already plan on reliving very soon indeed.