Mideast menu comes to Park City
December 28, 2005
Kimball Junction’s new Middle Eastern restaurant, Reef’s Kitchen, smells like cinnamon and cumin and feels like the inside of a plum, accented with deep stained wood and soft lighting the photonegative of the neighboring neon Subway on the corner.
But Reef’s sophisticated dinnertime darkness is inviting. As owner Asi Yoked notes, very little is hidden from his patrons. Only a countertop divides a 38-seat dining area from the kitchen, so you can hear the grill sizzle and see the steam rise as meals are prepared.
Reef’s is a family business. Yoked’s wife, Tali, prepares food next to him in the kitchen, and the name of the restaurant was inspired by their 16-month-old son, Reef. Yoked’s mother, Ida, painted the artwork. And the cement-top tables and the chairs are in large part the fruits of two month’s work shared by Yoked and his father, Yehuda.
According to Yoked, when he created the restaurant, he was attempting to strike the perfect balance of food, music and color that would make the restaurant personal. "I wanted to sell people more than just food. I wanted to give them atmosphere and a place to get together where they can go even if they aren’t hungry, just to be comfortable," he said
Locals seem to have been waiting for Reef’s since the Yokeds sold hummus and pita sandwiches at Park City’s Farmers Market Stand this summer. Within the first week and a half, Yoked reports he had already seen nights where all his tables were "swamped." Yoked says that he has not advertised with any of the local media outlets around town, so he suspects that people must have heard through word-of-mouth.
Yet Yoked does not appear to be particularly surprised by the attention he’s gotten straight out of the gate. Perhaps it’s because he noticed that neither Park City or the greater Summit County area had a restaurant with the flavors he grew up with in Israel, a cuisine that combines elements from Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco, eastern European countries and Japan.
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The lunch menu includes stuffed grape leaves, babaghanouj, pumpkin soup with ginger cream and pita sandwiches filled with falafel, kebab or grilled chicken. The dinner entrees feature marinated lamb skewers, Moroccan salmon, and Basbousa, and a semolina and coconut cake, or homemade strawberry ice for dessert.
Yoked emphasizes that everything made in the restaurant is fresh there are no frozen foods and no preservatives in the ingredients.
A chef for 10 years in the United States and in Israel, Yoked worked in a Japanese-Thai-Chinese-Indonesian fusion restaurant by the name of "East" in Tel Aviv until nine months ago, when he decided to move to Utah.
He had visited the town before, because his dad lives in town, and chose to relocate to Park City since it seemed to suit his love for the outdoors.
"I bike and snowboard and fly fish. It’s relaxing and nice here and laid back, and since we had to decide where we wanted [to raise] Reef, we chose to move to Park City," Yoked explained.
This summer, Yoked has plans to share an outdoor deck upstairs with Suede, the private club above his restaurant, and to support the club’s concerts.
For now, he is focused on catering to the community, and in particular to locals.
"It’s not that we don’t care about visitors, but we focus on local people, because they demand excellence, since they’re the ones who are going to come back," he explained. "And I want to be excellent."
Reef’s Kitchen Middle Eastern Cuisine is located beneath the private club, Suede, at 1612 Ute Boulevard, and offers both dine-in and takeout orders from noon to 9 p.m. For more information and to contact the restaurant, call 658-0323.