I don't know about you, but I'm pretty excited that we're in the middle of the Downtown Salt Lake City Dine O'Round.

For either $15 or $25, you can get a three-course meal at one of 37 different downtown restaurants — and I guarantee you, you're getting a bargain. I've reviewed a few of the participating restaurants and eaten at several others on my own time, and the vast majority are well worth a trip downtown from the 'burbs.

The other night, we opened our Dine O'Round efforts by taking guests from out of town to a sunset dinner at The Garden, one of two restaurants atop the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

I'd had lunch at The Garden several times — with its green-and-white conservatory-like decor, it just seems like a lunch place — but never dinner. The Garden makes the transition to nighttime in style. We arrived just in time for the staff to open the blinds, and we watched the sun go down and the city lights go up.

The Garden's Dine O'Round offerings — shrimp-and-chicken pasta for $15 or veal for $25 (both come with appetizer and your choice of dessert) — both looked good. But I must confess we looked over the menu and went our own way. We came for the Dine O'Round and stayed for the barbecue-braised tri-tip, smoked pork loin, New York steak and herb-encrusted halibut.

First, we had a couple of starters.

The artichoke-spinach-cheese dip was warm, cheesy without being gooey and full of spinach and artichoke chunks. We scooped it onto grilled pita wedges and the tall crumbly crackers that arrived upright in the dip.

The shrimp cocktail featured a dozen flavorful large shrimp stuck into a piquant cilantro-citrus cocktail sauce.

Dinner at the Garden is nicely paced; we were at the tail end of our appetizers when the entrees arrived, all of them beautifully plated.

I had the halibut, a thick, flaky cut lightly crusted with an aromatic, slightly crisp coating. It rested on a bed of lightly flavored lemon saffron rice and flavorful, crisp-tender "wok-fried" julienne veggies, with a bright pineapple sweet-and-sour sauce pooled around the outside. The pineapple was more assertive and complementary to the fish than a squeeze of lemon, and I could have devoured a whole plate of the veggies, which featured spinach in addition to the usual stir-fry suspects.

My husband enjoyed a tender, well-cooked New York steak in caramelized onion demi-glace, as well as its accompanying slightly chunky garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and onions and more of those veggies.

One of our friends had the fork-tender, sweet-smoky pork loin, which had the same demi-glace and potatoes as the steak, personalized with cinnamon-sugar sliced apples and sauteed asparagus.

I think possibly the best meal at our table was the tri-tip, a good-size portion of slow-cooked sirloin on a pepper Jack potato cake. Slow cooking infuses the falling-apart-tender meat with mildly spicy Tex-Mex flavor, and the potato cake is a flavorful, mellow counterpart.

Throughout our meal, we enjoyed excellent service, and The Garden is kind to kids, too, with a children's menu of favorites and (a parental plus) kid-size plastic cups with lids.

Desserts at The Garden cost nearly $5, and they're scaled to make that a very reasonable price. We enjoyed a huge, elegant wedge of cinnamon chocolate layer cake, moist and fine-textured, with fudgy ganache frosting and a well-developed, complex flavor.

And then there was the creme brulee, which was both very nice and very big, a plentiful ramekin of berry-topped, caramel-colored custard with my favorite kind of crust, the crisp and delicate kind that crumbles as you slide your spoon into the cool, silky interior.

Appetizers $3.95-$8.95, sandwiches and salads $9.95-$11.95, entrees $11.95-$19.95, kids' meals $3.95-$4.95, desserts $4.95.


The Garden

Rating: *** 1/2

Where: 15 E. South Temple, 10th floor (Joseph Smith Memorial Building)

Hours: Lunch: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m.; Closed Sunday

Payment: Cash, checks, credit cards

Reservations: Accepted

Phone: 539-3170

Web: www.diningattemplesquare.com

Dine O'Round information:www.downtownslc.org


Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com