Dining Freestyle | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Dining Freestyle 

Park City’s Shabu combines Asian cuisines in a high-energy setting.

Pin It
Favorite

As you meander through the masses at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, cruise up Main Street and look up. You’ll see a big metal fish sculpture on the side of the Main Street Mall, about the size of a VW Jetta. That’s Shabu, Park City’s happening restaurant specializing in “freestyle Asian cuisine.”

nn

What is freestyle Asian cuisine? According to Shabu’s owners, brothers Kevin and Robert Valaika, when they relocated from the Windy City to Park City a few years ago, they had one thing on their minds: skiing. Being freestylers on the slopes, when it came time to open their restaurant, Robert and Kevin took the freestyle approach and attitude into the kitchen. At Shabu, you’ll find a freestyle blend of Asian cuisines and techniques'from the hot-pot cookery of shabu shabu to East-meets-West sushi and sashimi. It’s all fabulous.

nn

Shabu is the most energetic restaurant I’ve been to in ages. On a recent Saturday night, folks without reservations looked longingly at those lucky ones with tables. The dining room was mobbed, and so was the bar. That’s par for the course these days, as Shabu has separated itself from the Park City pack and is now a dining shining star. What impresses me about Shabu, though, isn’t so much that it’s popular'there are plenty of popular eateries in Utah’s Tinseltown. It’s that it serves up the goods to back up that popularity.

nn

As with much Asian-inspired cuisine, Shabu’s is the kind of food you want to share. And you’ll be tempted to show off your chopstick skills by passing morsels to your date. Start with something easy like chef Robert’s (brother Kevin runs the front of the house) dim sum, which changes each night but is always the chef’s choice of bite-size starters served with a special dipping sauce ($10). The Chinese potstickers served in a bamboo steamer were delectable'even spiked with coriander, which I have an aversion to.

nn

Now here’s what I call a salad: glazed duck confit with caramelized onions, perched on a bed of greens and studded with candied pecans (I could eat 100) and a light fig vinaigrette ($13). I had to fight off the others at the table for the last piece of Chef Robert’s yummy Nitro Roll ($15). It’s an inside-out maki roll, with tempura-fried shrimp, pineapple, mango and avocado slices all wrapped up in tobiko-coated fresh tuna, and accompanied by a luscious Japanese red-pepper citrus sauce. Don’t be afraid to throw an elbow or two claiming the last piece. It’s that good.

nn

I always enjoy the shabu shabu ($20-$26) at Shabu. That’s where you cook your own meats, seafood and veggies at the table in a cooker filled with either a vegetarian broth (shitake mushrooms, ginger, garlic, red peppers, Thai basil and Thai chilies) or the fragrant lemon grass and Kaffir lime-infused Thai coconut broth. But since Robert had recently revamped his Shabu menu, I opted to try some of the new stuff.

nn

Lamb chops might not sound very Asian'or very freestyle for that matter'but they are, in Robert Valaika’s capable hands. Shabu’s Morgan Valley Lamb Chops ($40) are grilled and served with stone-ground mustard demi-glace, then finished with a marvelous ginger-mint compound butter. Alongside was a fabulous roasted-garlic and yellow-curry potato puree and a medley of sautéed Japanese eggplant and asparagus spears.

nn

But the best was still to come. Yes, you do want the wok-seared Diver scallops ($32). They’re pan-seared and arrive encircling a serving of duck sausage, paired with a white-truffle-ponzu butter. Duck sausage and scallops on the same plate? That’s freestyle, and it works. But even that’s not the best dish at Shabu. My vote there goes to the black cod ($30). Chef Robert marinates his cod in shiro miso (white miso, a fermented paste of soy beans and barley), then broils it until just barely cooked through. He serves the ample fish filet with an herbed crab and caramelized onion puff pastry, plus kung pao veggies off to the side. The tender morsels of black cod'the delicate fish breaks apart almost by looking at it'are light and airy; the opposite of the way cod usually comes. And glazed with sweet miso, the fish has a honeylike, buttery flavor that you will not soon forget. It was fabulous paired with a bottle of wine we brought in: The Heart Has Its Riesling, from Bonny Doon.

nn

Throughout dinner, service at Shabu was exceptional, even with every table in the place filled. It’s the only time I can recall handing my server an extra $20, after we’d already left a 25 percent tip on the bill. I was impressed by his calmness in the midst of a potential service storm.

nn

Not quite willing to let the evening end, we thought it wise to sample a dessert and some sake. Shabu has a number of warm sake choices, not to mention a menu of signature martinis. One of the most requested is the “Come On I Wanna Lei Ya,” a concoction of sake, raspberry vodka and Chambord, mixed with cranberry and pineapple juices. The dessert choice of warm banana cake was a great one. It’s a melt-in-the-mouth (literally) decadent cake baked with chunks of white chocolate and served with a killer cinnamon crème anglais. Don’t go home without one.

nn

SHABU
n333 Main
nMain Street Mall
nPark City
n435-645-SAKE
nOpen daily at 5 p.m.

Pin It
Favorite

More by Ted Scheffler

Latest in Wine

  • Sipping Fuissé

    Getting to know Pouilly-Fuissé, France's other white Burgundy
    • Nov 4, 2015
  • Zincredible

    Exploring Zinfandel, a uniquely American wine
    • Oct 14, 2015
  • Alsatian Sensations

    Getting to know the other white wines of France
    • Sep 23, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

© 2018 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation