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The secret’s out: Getting to know the Garden Grille

By Valerie Phillips - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Feb 3, 2022

Valerie Phillips, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Chef Josh Overturf of the Garden Grille poses with his fixed-price Valentine’s dinner menu.

The Garden Grille may be one of Ogden's best-kept secrets.

Located in the Hilton Garden Inn, "It's a weird scenario where people think they have to be a guest in order to dine at the hotel. But they don't," said Josh Overturf, who has been the executive chef since it opened in 2012. "It's like a bad best-kept secret, because people will say, 'I had no idea this was here.'"

That's the opposite of the Las Vegas hotels where he used to work. "In Vegas, everyone comes to the hotels to dine. Here, they don't."

But once people come in, "We give them an experience, from the moment they walk in, to the moment they leave. Once we get them in the seat, we own them and they will return again and again for the food."

In-the-know locals are clued in to the annual Valentine's Day dinner, and Overturf expects reservations to fill quickly for the fixed-price menu offered Friday, Feb. 11; Saturday, Feb 12; and Monday, Feb. 14, beginning at 5 p.m. It won't be offered on Sunday, as "We don't want to take a chance with the Super Bowl," Overturf said.

Valerie Phillips, Special to the Standard-Examiner

The Garden Grille’s Valentine’s entree of five-spice-dusted Kurobuta pork tenderloin, Florentine potato puree, compressed beets and shaved radish, topped with mango gelee pearls.

Since the actual Valentine's Day hits on Monday, many other local restaurants are also spreading out their Valentine's Day events to the prior weekend. Some are closed on Sundays, and others will have Super Bowl events going on, so it's important to check your favorite restaurant's website and social media pages, or call ahead to make sure of what they will be offering -- and book a reservation as early as possible.

The Garden Grille's $75-per-person, four-course dinner includes an appetizer of seared, basil-crusted scallops with kimchi-style cucumber and mango gelee. Second course is creamy lobster bisque with white truffle oil.

The entree is five-spice-dusted Kurobuta pork tenderloin, Florentine potato puree, compressed beets and shaved radish. Kurobuta pork, originally from Japan, is a heritage breed raised in pampered conditions similar to Wagyu beef, to promote the meat's marbling, juiciness and flavor. Overturf said he will cook the pork tenderloin sous vide -- vacuum-sealed in a bag, then simmered in a water bath -- so the pork is juicy and tender.

Dessert is creme brulee with a cookie crumble and fresh berries, garnishee with raspberry coulis and puffs of meringue.

Dinners are accompanied by house-baked breads with a trio of flavored butter and oils.

Valerie Phillips, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Seared basil-crusted scallops with kimchi-style cucumber and mango gelee is the Valentines’ appetizer at the Garden Grille in Ogden.

But you don't have to wait for the annual Valentine's Day to try the Garden Grille. Although the restaurant doesn't have a website with its menu posted, Overturf said there are regular items with rotating specials, to have something for everyone.

"If not, that's when you call me out, and I can make you something from scratch, if I've got it," Overturf said. "We're that kind of a restaurant."

For instance, he made borscht for a guest from Poland, "to help make her feel at home."

A signature dish is his "Better than Maryland" crab cake ($15), which gets lots of love, even from Maryland guests. They were praised highly by a food writer who boasted that she had eaten crab cakes from all over the East Coast. She shared his recipe in a 2019 Utah Devour magazine article.

Overturf noted that lately the price of crab has "gone through the roof," as the jumbo lump crab from the Gulf of Mexico was $60 per pound the last time he bought it. "But I keep the same size of crab cake, because that's what people are used to having."

Valerie Phillips, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Creme brulee with berries and meringue puffs is the Valentine’s dessert at the Garden Grille.

Herb and garlic chicken ($24) is also a big seller. "It's a comfort dish," he said. "People love it."

Dynamite salmon, a riff on the Dynamite sushi roll, is flavored with mayo, sriracha and tobiko (flying fish roe).

Overturf's dishes have glam appeal with artful plating -- sprinkles of herbs, drizzles of sauces and other garnishes.

"You eat with your eyes first, so we want to make sure every plate looks perfect," he said. "Food is so expensive now, and I want to make sure people get their full value."

Breakfast, which is served from 6-9 a.m. weekdays and 7-10 a.m. weekends, are also open to the public. Breakfast sandwiches, eggs, French toast, omelets, or biscuits and gravy are all accompanied by bacon or sausage and breakfast potatoes, for $10-15.99. Kids breakfast meals are $7.

Valerie Phillips, Special to the Standard-Examiner

"Better Than Maryland" crab cake is a signature item at the Garden Grille, in the Ogden Hilton Garden Inn.

The restaurant reopens at 5 p.m. for dinner each night.

At age 15, Overturf started out as a dishwasher at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.

"It was horrible," he recalled with a laugh. "They didn't have a day shift dishwasher, so when I got there, all the eggs were caked on the plates."

He stuck with it for about a year and a half, and then moved on cooking.

"I learned the ins and outs of chains like Chili's and Outback, got burned out and went to the Strip," he said. There, he was the chef at Mandalay Bay's Russian-themed restaurant, Red Square. He was also executive chef of Vic and Anthony's Steakhouse at the Golden Nugget.

"I've been fortunate to work with amazing chefs who weren't afraid to share," he said. "And I'm like a sponge, I like to soak it up. My goal is to learn something new every day."

He moved to Utah 12 years ago and spent his first year working at the Prairie Schooner. Then he was hired by the Hilton Garden Inn while it was under construction.

He moved to Utah because, "I didn't want my kids growing up in Vegas," he said. "I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle, and Utah is more relaxing."


If you go

THE GARDEN GRILLE

Location: 2271 Washington Blvd.

Hours: Breakfast, Monday-Friday, 6-9 a.m., and Saturday-Sunday, 7-10 a.m.; dinner, daily, 5-9 p.m.

Contact: 801-399-2000; facebook.com/HGIOgden or hilton.com/en/hotels/ogdwbgi-hilton-garden-inn-ogden-ut

Prices: Breakfast, $10-15.99; dinner entrees, $18-45; Valentine's menu, $75

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