Restaurant Review: Epic Beer Pairing at Hotel Monaco | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Restaurant Review: Epic Beer Pairing at Hotel Monaco

Bambara + Epic Brewing = a multi-course meal to die for.


  • Alex Springer

A few weeks ago, I learned that the Hotel Monaco would be kicking off a series of events in which their team at Bambara would forge a culinary alliance with Epic Brewing Company. I'm usually on board for anything Bambara-related, so I signed up as soon as I learned that this event would be a multi-course meal inspired by some of the brews on tap at Epic. I had a little preview of the menu beforehand, but the experience itself was so much more than a dinner.

The dining menu was conceived and executed by Bambara's banquet chef Max Goodrich, who took a deep dive into U.K. pub food territory. This makes sense when you consider his creative inspiration came from a few of his favorite beers from Epic Brewing Company, represented for the evening by Ryan Kluh. Dinner was served in the Bombay Room on the second floor of the hotel, imparting a true private-dining event to the whole affair. Bambara has great ambiance to be sure, but there is something nice about being separated from the dinner rush bustle of the evening.

Each table setting had a pair of shot glasses filled with pelleted hops and grain—a very nice touch aesthetically, and they served an educational purpose as the meal progressed. Dinner started with a small amuse-bouche that consisted of a savory cream puff topped with a cheddar tuile and an equally diminutive pour of Epic's Peach Cream Ale. Despite my love for all things peach-flavored, this ale had eluded me until this evening. It did not disappoint, and it paired well with the cream puff.

Next up was a house-made beer focaccia served with a dollop of beer mustard and a small wedge of drunken goat cheddar. All of the above were made with some of Epic's Brainless Belgian Golden Ale, and it was a great overture for the rest of the meal. With Goodrich and Kluh on hand to provide some culinary context, those yeasty flavors from the beer synced up with those of the focaccia quite nicely. Adding the beer mustard and the goat cheddar to a bite of the focaccia and then chasing it with the ale was a primo combination.

From here, the menu plunged right into gastropub comfort food, with an excellent scotch egg served on top of greens tossed with more of that beer mustard. Full disclosure: I'd order a scotch egg whenever I saw it on a menu if it were a bit more common, so I was excited to see this dish cross my table. After slicing it in half and watching the golden, luxurious yolk spill into the mixed greens, I knew this would be a memorable moment. The protein surrounding this perfectly cooked egg was made from a wagyu and pork sausage, and the exterior provided the right amount of textural contrast to all this tender richness.

The scotch egg was paired with Epic's 825 State Stout, which is a very sentimental beer for the local brewery. Kluh pointed out that this particular beer won plenty of accolades outside of Utah, and became the beer that put Epic on the map for serious beer enthusiasts. Admittedly, I'm not the biggest fan of stouts, but the magic of a beer pairing is that it helps you approach a flavor combo from a different perspective. When you're indulging in a rich, unctuous scotch egg and following it up with the sharp, burnt-caramel notes from the stout, you get a peek behind the cosmic culinary curtain.

The scotch egg was followed by a plate of freshly-made cavatelli tossed with a black garlic sauce, lamb, asparagus and topped with a tuile made from that drunken goat cheddar we had earlier. Just like with the mustard in the scotch egg greens, it's these little touches that showcase Goodrich's master plan of a menu—the meal was all about taking a few steps into new territory while remembering where we've been.

I was most fond of the cavatelli in this dish—it had a perfect, toothsome texture—and the black garlic sauce kept triggering the latent stout flavor that still lingered on my palate. This course was served with Epic's Citralush IPA, whose aromatic hops we had been enjoying as a centerpiece. The richness of the cavatelli definitely benefited from the sharp IPA tang of the Citralush, once again demonstrating the pleasurable balancing act taking place with each course.

The penultimate dish was fish and chips, the former having been battered in the Los Locos Mexican Lager that was served as a pairing. Authentic to the British pub fish and chips experience, Goodrich had prepared his own superior riff on the pea paste—"mushy peas"—that typically accompanies this dish across the pond. The foundational magnetism between fried fish and Mexican beer was definitely front-and-center with this dish.

Our meal concluded with a take on banoffee pie, which was served as a multi-textural mousse that captured a classic banoffee flavor. This was served with Epic's Double Skull Doppelbock, which complemented the dish with its toffee-like flavor notes. Again, hadn't been the biggest fan of the bock until I tried it with some complementary flavors, so score another one for the pairing team.

This was the first event in an ongoing series, so if you're interested in checking out this (ahem) epic partnership, keep tabs on Hotel Monaco's (@monacoslc) socials for details about the next event.