Restaurant Reveal: Seafood Buffet at Deer Valley offers seasonal delights |

Restaurant Reveal: Seafood Buffet at Deer Valley offers seasonal delights

Executive Sous Chef Brian Henning, left, and Seafood Head Chef Ryan Estel go the extra mile to prepare the Seafood Buffet at Deer Valley's Snow Park Lodge. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)
Tanzi Propst/Park Record |

Although the Seafood Buffet has been around almost as long at Deer Valley Resort itself, there’s nothing prosaic about its menu. As the town has changed over the last 35-plus years, so has Park City’s original pop-up restaurant.

Seafood Buffet comes in after day service at Snow Park Restaurant finishes and transforms the space into a more elegant setting, where patrons can take their time with their food.

For anyone who hasn’t been to Seafood Buffet in a few years, Snow Park Executive Chef Brian Henning can rattle off a list of changes to expect.

“We got away from the sushi end of it, and now we do poke [a Hawaiian raw fish salad dish]. Now we have some action stations going on where we’re doing things like searing tuna,” Henning said.

We don’t even like the word ‘buffet’; we like the phrase ‘seafood dining’ because it’s still a buffet, but we really go the extra mile to make sure there’s great service …Brian HenningSnow Park Executive Chef

The restaurant also moved away from having a beef or duck carvery to offering a fish carvery – something that the restaurant has not done since its early years.

Signature items are also refreshed with new broths or sauces, and more ingredients are being made in-house.

“We had our salmon bratwurst, and we’re piping our own sausage … We’re making our own fettuccine and gnocchi, and we’re bringing more of that back,” Henning said.

New faces in the kitchen are also influencing the restaurant.

“We’ve only done a few things twice in the three years I’ve been here,” Seafood Buffet Executive Chef Ryan Estel said. “So every week, we change about eight to 10 items. Some might be the same fish as a year earlier, or a couple months before that, but we go with what’s in season.”

Supply dictates the menu, and seafood arrives at the restaurant every day. What’s available can be a surprise to the chefs, who have to be nimble with their recipes.

“I’ll talk to my fish guys and ask if there’s an abundance of this fish being caught this week,”. Estel said. “We roll out a new menu on Thursday, and I’ll create a new menu for the following Thursday. That gives me a week to get all the product in.”

Transportation issues, or a dip in the week’s catch can tear some of those plans asunder. “There’s a lot of times where I’ll have to change the fish maybe even the day before, but I can keep the same preparation,” Estel said.

Nothing is set in stone when it comes to the menu. And the spread is as wide as it is inventive. Every night, chefs lay out at least three specialty appetizers, three kinds of ribs, two soups, two fish carvery stations, four or five specialty fish dishes, oysters, shrimp, two kinds of crabs, side dishes, salads, a local cheese station and condiments on the Natural Buffet station. The kitchen is also fully prepared to cater to vegetarians, vegans and those with food allergies, such as gluten, Henning said.

“I like to create the menus around an a la carte dish,” Estel said. “If you saw it on the menu, it sounds a la carte, like the sablefish with jasmine rice and honey-soy glaze and pineapple beurre blanc. So it’s all right there, but you’ve got the sauces and everything on the side, for all four fish dishes.”

Dishes are built right in front of diners, making the experience more personal and artistic, especially important for a night that might serve 350 people for dinner, Estel added.

Even after more than 30 years in business, Henning expresses a genuine pride in the restaurant’s staying power.

“We don’t even like the word “buffet”; we like the phrase “seafood dining” because it’s still a buffet, but we really go the extra mile to make sure there’s great service … So I think we’re a little more hands-on [than the name buffet suggests,]” Henning said.

Seafood Buffet is located in the Snow Park Lodge, 2250 Deer Valley Drive South. Open for dinner 6:15 to 9 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. For more information and reservations call 435-645-6632 or visit

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