Roll up to the valet parking area at the new Vuz restaurant in Draper, and you’ll probably react the way I did: Wait, what? I counted six Benzes, a couple Porsches, one Maserati, a Jag and a Ferrari in the parking lot. After handing over our own keys (to a mid-priced American automobile), we were greeted at the door by a gentleman named Jerry, who was looking very James Bond-ish in a white tux jacket, black pants and bow tie. A friend of mine had described Vuz as “Vegas-tacular!” and I was beginning to see why. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Vuz is a massive restaurant, bar and, eventually, winery perched on a bluff in Draper, affording diners spectacular valley views. Hence the name: Vuz is pronounced “views.” The four business partners behind Vuz—two of whom are involved in high-end construction—spared no expense in creating one of the most dazzling restaurants I’ve encountered. It’s not like anything we’ve seen in Utah before. There are large dining areas inside and out, a private dining room for parties, weddings and other events, a lounge called Vuda Bar, an on-premises winery (Virgin Mountain Cellars) that is still in the works and even private wine lockers. The owners haven’t acquired all the necessary permits for the winery yet, but it’s coming. When it does, Vuz winemakers will create their own proprietary blends.
So for now, hunker down with the eclectic wine list that wine educator and manager Sheral Showe has put together, or summon up a custom cocktail such as the Pomegranate Mojito or Dubai Blue Bubbles (two of the owners have Dubai connections) as you peruse the various Vuz menus. There’s a small bar menu with hors d’oeuvres such as lobster croquets ($12), portobello tartlet ($12), a fruit and cheese plate ($14) and such. We sampled the foie gras terrine ($14), which was nuggets of seared foie gras on thin pear slices, topped with grapefruit—delicious. Two main menus offer a bevy of options: There is a “petite plates” menu with appetizers, soups and salads, and a “grand plates” menu of entree-size dishes.
Chef Kaharim Becerra, formerly of The Grand America and Frida Bistro, features what usually gets called contemporary American cuisine. His dishes hold great appeal; they’re not overly complicated, but are complex and innovative enough to titillate the palate. Maryland-style crab cakes ($12), for example, are nicely browned with a crispy crust in the traditional manner, but served with a zippy chipotle remoulade, yuzu aioli and a hard-cooked quail egg. New Zealand mussel shooters ($11) come with picadillo, sliced avocado, cilantro and yuzu juice.
Becerra, who hails originally from Mexico, has a knack for combining Latin and Asian flavors, with great results. One of his best creations is very simple, but sensational: an avocado half, hollowed out and stuffed with fresh crab meat, topped with spring-fresh gazpacho vinaigrette, micro cilantro and fennel pollen ($14). It’s wonderful, and so is the arugula and fennel salad ($13), which comes with seared scallop, Beehive Aggiano cheese and tomato beurre blanc. One more petite plate of note: Hand-pulled mozzarella is paired with pesto, grape tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar, to great effect. And, you can watch it all happen in the exhibition kitchen.
In the land of cookie-cutter eateries—which tend to dot the south valley—the attention to detail at Vuz is particularly refreshing. From the flat-screen TVs in the bathrooms to the unique dinner plates, no stone went unturned, apparently, in the creation of this marvelous restaurant. Food comes to the table often on oversize, heavy, white rectangular plates or sometimes on slabs of polished wood that one of the owners made. Our excellent server, Ashley, confirmed it takes muscle to haul those hefty plates around. Tableware is replaced with every new dish at Vuz, and service is top-notch. In part, that might be because three of the four owners (one is a silent partner) patrol the dining rooms and bar, meeting and greeting guests. Already, Vuz has a large percentage of repeat customers, whom the owners mostly know by name. Throughout, Buddah Bar-style music provides a soothing aural backdrop.
“You lost me at ‘Draper,’ ” said a friend when I told him about Vuz. Here’s the thing: It’s a 20-minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City—Draper really isn’t as far as it seems—and you don’t have to screw around with trying to find parking. It’s certainly worth the trip for pan-seared duck breast with grilled asparagus and chipotle-honey wine gastrique ($32). It comes with classic risotto Milanese (saffron risotto) that is as good as any I’ve ever had.
I swear I could have eaten my medium-rare all-natural filet mignon ($42) with a spoon, it was soooooo tender. It comes on a bed of roasted-garlic mashed potatoes, with cipollini onions and peppercorn glace, and topped with thin slices of foie gras. Equally tempting for meat lovers is the natural rack of lamb ($40), with potato galette, stone-ground mustard glace, chestnut puree and golden beets. It’s a perfect example of what endears me to Chef Becerra’s cooking: His sauces, glazes, aiolis, vinaigrettes and the like serve to enhance the flavor of the main ingredient. They don’t smother it. So, my beef filet tasted like beef, and Maine dayboat scallops tasted like scallops, creatively topped with shiitake salad and hibiscus reduction, and served with spring succotash.
I suspect that very soon Vuz will be the hot spot in the south valley. The patio has already become a popular gathering place, featuring live bands and warming fire pits, which, after dark, cast a glow you can see from blocks away. Vuz is as close as you’ll get to Vegas in Utah.
Yes, it’s in Draper. Get over it.
VUZ RESTAURANT & VUDA BAR
12234 S. Draper Gate Drive