Park City is best known for skiing, not sushi. However, that may soon change. Two of the best contemporary Asian restaurants I’ve ever set foot in are located in Utah’s glitzy ski town. One is new; the other has been around a while. Both are well worth an excursion to Park City.
The new kid on the block is Sushi Blue (1571 W. Redstone Center Drive, Park City, 435-575-4272, BillWhiteRestaurantGroup.com), Bill White’s newest eatery. It’s located in Kimball Junction’s Redstone Center, in the space that used to house Hapa Grill. As with every Bill White restaurant (Grappa, Chimayo, Wahso, Windy Ridge, Ghidotti’s), Sushi Blue is, first and foremost, eye candy. In the main dining room, there is elevated tatami seating for the adventurous, along with regular tables for lazier customers like me. To the rear of the restaurant is a lounge/bar area and sushi bar, the latter of which tends to get very busy in the evening. Throughout, Bill White’s renowned attention to detail and décor is beautifully evidenced, from the dish plates and chopsticks to the wall hangings and lighting.
The eclectic, pan-Asian menu runs the gamut from sushi and sashimi to Korean street tacos, Thai beef salad, bánh mě sandwiches, American burgers and even all-beef Kobe hot dogs. The best choice from the small-plate menu is the crab-cake slider duo ($10.95): two very tasty petite crab cakes on cute little toasted buns with sliced avocado, balsamic caramelized red onion, poblano chile peppers and a yummy ponzu-citrus mayonnaise. We devoured ours. Of course, where would we be without pork belly on today’s contemporary restaurant menus? It’s this year’s bacon. And so, there’s seared pork belly at Sushi Blue, served with a fresh salad, fennel soubise and shichimi spices ($11.95).
If you’re eating sushi, be sure to ask about the off-menu specials. On a recent evening, we were pleased to learn that, in addition to the normal menu items, Sushi Blue was also offering fresh kanpachi, uni, sanma, gindara, suzuki, aji and sake hama. Most nigiri at Sushi Blue goes for $6.95 (two pieces), and sashimi is typically priced at $15.95, although there is some variation. The aji (horse mackerel from Japan) nigiri was perfect—generous pieces of raw fish perched atop just the right amount of rice. Whereas so many sushi restaurants today seem to be mostly about the rice, I appreciate the less-is-more approach at Sushi Blue, where the focus is on the highest-quality fish.
In addition to standard maki rolls like the spider roll, Philly roll and caterpillar roll, there are cleverly named Blue rolls, all playing on celebrity names. For example, there’s the Kimchi Kardashian, Tuna Turner, Salmon L. Jackson and Mike Thai Son. The latter is an interesting combination of complex flavors; there’s a lot going on in the Mike Thai Son ($15.95), which is essentially a spicy tuna roll, but with basil and red pepper, topped with hamachi, chopped peanuts, lime and Thai coconut curry. There is sweetness from the coconut curry and spiciness from the tuna. All in all, a very unusual roll, but not one I’d probably order again.
During a lunch at Sushi Blue, I loved the simplicity of the niku udon ($11.95). It’s a big bowl of rich-tasting housemade soup broth brimming with thick udon noodles, scallions and thin slices of seared rib eye. Perfect. I also enjoyed an entree of seared sea scallops ($22.95) with baby bok choy and edamame fried rice, except that the rice—which I’d prefer to be dry—was swimming in the coconut yellow curry that flavored the scallops.
Like Sushi Blue, Yuki Arashi (586 Main, Park City, 435-649-6293, Facebook.com/YukiArashiParkCity)—which has been open about five years—is a feast for the senses, including the eyes. There is tatami seating in the rear, an attractive contemporary waterfall on one wall, beautiful lighting and a soothing mix of stone and wood décor. And, like Sushi Blue, restaurateur Soo Chyung’s Yuki Arashi (which means “snowstorm”) is about a lot more than just sushi, with Korean flavors enhancing Japanese ones. Kimchi miso ($6.95), for example, is a hot-and-sour-flavored shiro miso broth with kimchi and rice. Another excellent starter is an order of sashimi tacos ($12.95): three sashimi-topped corn tortillas with accoutrements like shredded cabbage, apple chimichurri, pickled jalapeño, carrot and radish, and drizzled with a jalapeño dressing and black-lava sea salt.
One of the more eye-popping and taste-bud-pleasing dishes I’ve encountered is Yuki Arashi’s Wagyu beef tataki ($22.95). In Japanese, tataki means “pound.” Bite-size medallions of Wagyu beef are pounded thin and brought to the table raw, to be cooked on a Himalayan sea-salt block that’s heated to about 425 degrees Fahrenheit. The customer sizzles the meat on the hot rock, accompanied with lemon-soy and cilantro-red-pepper dipping sauces. The meat is so tasty and tender it’s nearly unnecessary to chew it. Phenomenal.
Hot dishes like jalapeño and chocolate teriyaki-glazed baby back ribs ($14.95) or the miso-marinated and broiled sablefish ($18.95) are simply wonderful, as is the sushi. A stunningly delicious roll from sushi chef Paul Velo is the snow-shed roll ($17.95). It’s an explosion of flavors—made with gobo (burdock root), cucumber, kaiware (daikon) sprouts and spicy tuna, topped with nearly translucent pieces of raw escolar, each piece garnished with a single drop of Sriracha. Wow.
Well, I’ve focused here on two excellent eateries. But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Park City’s other superb sushi spots: Ahh Sushi, Blind Dog Restaurant & Sushi Bar, Flying Sumo Sushi & Grill, Lespri Prime Steak Sushi Bar, Oishi Sushi & Grill, Shabu, Shoyu Sushi House & Japanese Kitchen and Yama Sushi. There’s a virtual avalanche of Asian flavors in this little ski town.