Loin with Roasted Garlic Flan in a Balsamic-Port wine Reduction,
Crab-stuffed Prawns in Lemon Oil, aged Balsamic and Saffron
The food speaks
for itself at the Center Cafe.
Those of you
who have already dined on some of the delectable choices
on the menu should be salivating by now. Paul and Zee McCarroll,
owners and chefs, have deservedly earned their reputation
as a bastion of urban gourmet whose location in Moab belies
its fine cuisine. It is no wonder that discerning high-end
food critics continue to bestow distinguished awards and
praise on the Center Cafe. The prestigious Zagats
Guide has ranked them among the top restaurants in the nation.
With a reputation for delicious food, impeccable service
and elegant decor, the Center Cafe has brought excellent
dining to Moab.
Paul and Zee met at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland,
Oregon and partnered up in marriage and cuisine. In addition
to shared professional interests, they both enjoyed mountain
biking which drew them to vacation frequently in Moab. Work
at Pack Creek Ranch gave them the opportunity to move here,
and in 1996, after Paul worked as a sous-chef under Moab
restaurateur Tim Buckingham, the McCarrolls bought the Center
Cafe from him. Ironically, since taking up residency in
the Mountain Biking Mecca of the World, they no longer have
time to partake in the sport.
Center Cafe and its diners, however, benefit from all the
time and energy Paul and Zee invest in the restaurant, especially
since they moved to their new location. Motivated by a desire
to expand their dining room, the McCarrolls decided to purchase
the building on 60 North 100 West (formerly Honest Ozzies)
and build a large addition. The decor reflects the promise
of refined, elegant dining upon entering. Wood cabinets,
the stone fireplace and a brilliant stained glass window,
all pieces done by local artists, grace the interior. Track
lighting casts a warm glow off the ochre walls and blond
wood ceiling. The effect puts diners into a proper mood
for enjoying the delectable food. A further attraction through
the fall has been live jazz music played on certain Wednesday
nights by veteran musicians, Carl Dede on guitar and Gen
Numaguchi on trumpet.
and efficient service is also on par with urban upscale
dining. The staff works like a team and is very customer-oriented.
Many of the staff members have moved to Moab for the same
reasons that attracted Paul and Zee, and they hike, kayak,
climb and bike together off duty. This friendship results
in a smooth operating system and in knowledgeable staff
not only about the food but also about the area, which visitors
to Moab often enjoy. The wait staff brings its varied interests
and experiences together in creating a relaxed, upscale
and Zee have recently decided to add a new attraction to
their ever-changing menu, a set-priced meal featuring home
style comfort food, such as meatloaf or chicken and dumplings.
The moderately priced menu will include a soup or salad
and dessert. This fixed-price option will last until the
weekend after Thanksgiving, at which time the Center Cafe
closes for the season.
The winter still
doesnt allow Paul and Zee the luxury of returning
to mountain biking since they spend the time working under
nationally-recognized chefs, such as Alice Waters of Chez
Panisse in Berkeley. These sabbaticals give the McCarrolls
a chance to study new methods and discover new dishes.
is more than a profession for them, but also a passion,
which shows in that all the food, from bread to dessert,
is made from scratch. They also place great emphasis on
freshness. They grow their own herbs, tomatoes, apples and
apricots, and buy much of their produce from local farmers.
The freshness of the ingredients makes all the difference
in their cooking, especially since their philosophy is that
food needs to represent itself, in appearance and
Not only does
the food represent itself, it speaks for itself. The food
resembles what it should be in its most perfect state. The
lamb has a buttery tenderness and the sweet, robust flavors
of the Port wine reduction burst on the taste buds. The
crab stuffed prawns marry divinely with the risotto and
its citrus blend of lemon oil and Balsamic vinegar, with
a subtle hint of saffron. As many diners have noted, the
Center Cafe is the caliber of restaurant that one expects
to find in New York or San Francisco. How fortunate for
Moab that Paul and Zee liked mountain biking enough to establish
their fine cuisine here.
The Center Cafe
is open nightly from 5:30 p.m. Entrees range from $19 to
$28. The deli (which sells gourmet foods, including artisan
and organic cheeses) is open during dining hours. For reservations,
please call 259-4295.