Salt Lake Magazine taps Park City eats
February 22, 2008
Shabu owners Kevin and Bob Valaika once again embraced a silver plate award at Salt Lake Magazine’s 2008 Dining Awards at Salt Lake City’s Grand America on Feb. 19, this time for "Best Fusion Restaurant."
The brothers opened Shabu on the second floor at the Main Street Mall at 333 Main St. in 2004 and in the past four years have won three of the magazine’s coveted honors. In 2006, the magazine dubbed their restaurant "Best Restaurant in Park City" and in 2005 "Best Undiscovered Restaurant." Also in 2005, the international magazine, Conde Naste Traveler, ranked Shabu in the "Top 12 New Restaurants in America."
"Winning an award definitely puts us on the radar for sure," says Bob Vailaka. "We go anywhere now and we’re recognized. It gains us a lot of respect."
The brothers have created a nook in the Mall, where until they moved, in was primarily an art and retail center. In the glow of a red-lantern-colored ambiance created by deep crimson walls and soft table lighting, they serve their inventive mix of Pacific Rim-inspired fare they call "Asian Freestyle Cuisine," a melting pot of Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese tastes. Shabu’s menu includes drinks like "saketinis," kicking up the western cocktail with sake, the traditional Japanese aperitif, and entrees like "Grilled Hawaiin Ahi Tuna," a dish that dresses the meat with a sweet chili, prickly pear buerre blanc, wasabi potato puree and wok-seared vegetables. The name, "Shabu," is derived from "Shabu Shabu" a delicacy that began in 13th-century Mongolian "hot pot" tradition of cooking, developed to feed Genghis Khan’s tired troops, according to the restaurant’s Web site. The method is to boil a large pot of water and use it for dipping dip thinly-sliced meat. In the 1940s, the tradition became popular in Japan.
Shabu is not the only restaurant in Summit and Wasatch counties to collect accolades from the magazine this year a number of its many competitive neighbors were also tapped. As Good Karma co-owner Houman Gohary likes to note, with the number of restaurants in Park City alone nearing 100, the town has more restaurants per square foot than Paris, considered one of the world’s premiere cuisine epicenters. Bob Valaika says he is thankful for the competition. "It keeps us sharp and in tune," he says.
Other restaurants that shared the spotlight at the 2008 Salt Lake Magazine Dining Awards include the Stein Eriksen Lodge at Deer Valley Resort for "Best American Fine Dining;" Kamas’ Gateway Grill for "Best Comfort Food;" Heber City’s Spin Café for "Best Undiscovered Restaurant;" Park City’s Café Terigo for "Best Lunch;" Park City’s Prime Steakhouse for "Best Steakhouse;" Park City’s Chez Betty for "Best Restaurant (Park City)" and "Golden Spoon for Hospitality;" Park City’s Blind Dog Restaurant, Sushi Restaurant and Deep Blue Seafood’s Underdog Foundation for the "Community Award;" Park City’s Reef’s Kitchen a family-owned restaurant tucked away beneath The Playground nightclub at Kimball Junction that won "Best Undiscovered" last year — for "Best Middle Eastern" cuisine.
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"We’re super excited and very humbled and honored," says Asi Yoked, Reef’s Kitchen co-owner and executive chef. "I feel most of our success is about love and about our family, and because we really try to please the locals here."
Singled out for their culinary excellence, Park City’s Windy Ridge Café Pastry Chef Stephanie Krizman won an award for "Best Pastry Chef," and Deer Valley food and beverage director Julie Wilson won a "Lifetime Achievement Award."
Wilson, who celebrates her 27th year with Deer Valley Resort this year, oversees 10 dining facilities and 750 employees that serve up to 6,000 for lunch at the height of ski season.
"Park City is a wonderful place to live and I think it draws a lot of talent," she reflects. "I know all the people from Park City who won awards this year and all get along. It’s amazing how restaurant people have that connection."
Summit and Wasatch County restaurants clean up at Salt Lake Magazine’s 2008 Dining Awards
In Park City
*The Stein Eriksen Lodge at Deer Valley Resort
"Best American Fine Dining"
"Best Middle Eastern"
"Golden Spoon for Hospitality"
*Blind Dog Restaurant, Sushi Restaurant and Deep Blue Seafood’s Underdog Foundation "Community Award."
In Heber City
"Best Undiscovered Restaurant"
"Best Comfort Food"
*Windy Ridge Café Pastry Chef Stephanie Krizman
"Best Pastry Chef,"
*Deer Valley food and beverage director Julie Wilson
"Lifetime Achievement Award."