For those of you who’ve been in Utah for a while, the names Kimi and Staffan Eklund might ring a bell. The Eklunds were the longtime proprietors of Absolute! restaurant downtown, and also opened Dijon before eventually closing their restaurants and moving to Arizona. But too many hot and sunny days eventually led them back to Zion—specifically, Solitude Mountain Resort, where, for the past year, they’ve been operating Solitude’s Creekside Cafe.
A month or so ago, the Eklunds became the new owners of the Solitude eatery, which they’ve renamed Kimi’s Mountainside Bistro. They’ve breathed new life into the décor, right down to the hand-picked cutlery, chairs, plates and even the placemats. Kimi knows a thing or two about style (her Website is KimiStyle.com), and she’s really spruced up the old Creekside Cafe. The menu, too, shows new signs of life, thanks in large part to chef Matt Anderson, whose service to the Eklunds dates back to the Absolute! days. Anderson keeps a low profile, compared to many more visible local chefs, but his cooking has always been rock-solid.
New, large, lush, heavy wooden chairs beckon you to dine indoors at Kimi’s, while the views from the outdoor deck tug at your al fresco sensibilities. Either is a fine choice, although I favor the big outdoor tables that come equipped with a fireplace in the center. Resist the urge to order marshmallows, however.
Wherever you wind up, hope that you’ll be served by Aaron, just one of the friendly, professional staff members at Kimi’s Mountainside Bistro. Of course, Kimi is always there herself, greeting customers and tending to every detail. The Eklunds are well steeped in European-style hospitality, and every customer is made to feel unique and special. During one visit, while my 9-yearold son Hank was getting happily messy with baby-back pork ribs bathed in a luscious and sticky forest berry barbecue sauce ($19), Kimi brought out a bowl of lemon water and clean cloth napkins to help him tidy up.
About those ribs: Hank is an up-and-coming restaurant critic himself and is especially finicky about barbecue ribs. “These are awesome,” proclaimed Hank, after immersing himself in Kimi’s baby backs. I had to agree: The ribs were tender but not mushy, and coated in a splendid sweet-and-spicy sauce made with local berries. The accompanying French fries were enhanced with a spritz of herb oil, which made a delicious difference.
But before you get to those ribs, you’ll want to at least share an order of toast smogen, an appetizer that takes me back to the days of Absolute!, with its Swedish-inspired menu. Smogen is a creamy blend of shrimp and crab meat, garnished with fresh dill and served with slices of toasted baguette. Other seductive starters at Kimi’s include cheese fondue, made with Jarlsberg and white Cheddar ($15) and the decadent hazelnut-crusted Brie, which comes with tart lingonberry compote, apple “slaw,” bread crisps and crackers ($13). And, by all means, if the creamy, silky soup made with peaches and cream corn, potatoes and coconut milk happens to be on the menu, order it without delay. It’s one of chef Anderson’s most exquisite creations.
Salads at Kimi’s Mountainside Bistro are generously portioned (as are most other dishes), so you could easily make a meal of “Staffan’s Salad,” a big plate of mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette tossed with strawberries, toasted pepitas, buttermilk Bleu cheese, Port wine-reduced sweet onions and grilled breast of chicken. Beet fanatics will also be enticed by the roasted beet salad ($13).
The mountain views at Kimi’s—especially from the patio—are predictably spectacular. But, on occasion, they become even more spectacular—when Tasty shows up, for example. Tasty is a huge bull moose with a full rack who has taken, periodically, to wandering through the village at Solitude. During dinner on the patio one evening at Kimi’s, we were treated to a Tasty performance, as he showed up for supper—dining on a large bush located a mere 20 feet or so from our table. Try finding that at one of your trendy downtown restaurants.
My wife’s favorite dish at Kimi’s—and I like it a helluva lot myself—is the namesake Kimi’s Karlek ($17), which I translate as Kimi’s Love Plate. It’s a pasta dish composed of things Kimi loves: penne rigate with Gorgonzola creme, citrus baby peppers, crisp prosciutto, arugula, roasted mushrooms and Port-reduced sweet onions. Yes, it’s every bit as delicious as it sounds. I’m also a big fan of chef Matt Anderson’s pizza. In particular, his “Meaty Pizza” ($17), made with a thin, crisp crust and topped with a trio of cheeses (Jarlsberg, Mozzarella and Parmesan), pepperoni, Staffan’s home made sausage and prosciutto. Sweden isn’t especially known for its sausage makers, but I must get Staffan Eklund’s recipe. His is some of the best-tasting sausage I’ve ever gotten my lips around.
On the weekends, there’s a brunch buffet ($15 pp) at Kimi’s Mountainside Bistro, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Among the long list of brunch buffet items are a Swedish baked omelet with mushroom creme; caviar eggs; home-style apricot and blueberry granola; lingonberry buttermilk biscuits with honey butter; and gravad lax with dill-mustard creme, chopped onion and Swedish knackbrod. Lusty desserts at Kimi’s include Kahlua creme brulee and a knockout puff pastry topped with sweet Utah apricots and peaches, cream and homemade granola.
Kimi and Staffan Eklund work as hard as any restaurateurs I’ve ever met. They are a very hands-on couple. I urge you to visit Kimi’s Mountainside Bistro to taste the delicious fruit of their labors.
KIMI’S MOUNTAINSIDE BISTRO
Solitude Mountain Resort
Big Cottonwood Canyon