Al Dente introduces its Italian fare to Main Street
December 27, 2011
When Chef Jean Louis of Jean Louis Restaurant decided to leave his dining hotspot near Park City Main Street, locals were left to wonder what would be taking its place. That’s where restaurant owner Soo Chyung stepped in to debut his newest project, Al Dente Italian Restaurant.
Chyung currently owns A Wok Away and Yuki Arashi making Al Dente his third restaurant in Park City, so opening restaurants is nothing new. But Al Dente did come with its own challenges he said, mainly that the new restaurant will be his first Italian restaurant.
"Italian food has always been a passion of mine," Chyung said. "It is the purest form of cooking in my opinion."
From French to Italian, Chyung is quick to point out that Al Dente is a new restaurant with a new menu and chef. With the idea of putting quality ingredients in the spotlight using classic cooking techniques, Chyung started to hammer out the menu.
"We’re not reinventing the wheel," Chyung said. "This is classic Italian with that fresh, homemade quality."
For Chyung that means covering the basics such as making fresh pasta daily or finding the best prosciutto available, but it also means working on a recipe until it hits all the right notes. The truffle shavings in truffle oil with roasted pine nuts in a brown sage butter might be one of Chyung’s favorite new dishes but it still took six different variations before he gave it the ‘menu ready’ stamp of approval.
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"It’s evolving as we go," he said. "You hire great chefs, a great staff, everything else will follow suit."
To date, most of that work has been finding the perfect cheese or truffle. Chyung said it could be difficult to find fresh Italian ingredients in landlocked Utah. Other times, it could be impossible.
"We’ve had to really scrounge to find certain ingredients," he said.
With a month to get Al Dente up and running, Chyung said getting everything in place was done at record-breaking speed. He had to hire the staff, create the menu, schedule, decorate, stock, and all in a fraction of the time he would usually give himself.
"This certainly was not the easiest restaurant to open," Chyung said, "but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I love Italian food, especially raviolis."
Chyung designs all his restaurants using a process that begins with visiting the empty space at night until design elements fall into place in his head.
Al Dente was no different. After a few hours circling the empty restaurant, Chyung said a plan came together.
Lighting plays a huge role in any restaurant Chyung said. And for being inside a mall setting, he said he felt the restaurant is warm and inviting while still managing to feel intimate.
The restaurant features the warm earth tones of a Tuscan scene, but not in the way that says snapshot of Italy. Chyung said he went for warm, but modern. The dried herbs hanging from the ceiling were traded for a stone bar with under-lighting. Heavy wooden furniture was traded for sleek lines.
"It’s not overstated," Chyung said, "but the colors are here. The mood is here."
Al Dente Italian Restaurant
136 Heber Avenue
Dinner Service: Mon-Sun 5 to 10 p.m.
Full Bar Menu Available