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Wahso gains world recognition

Amanda Tust Of the Record staff
Gavin Baker, left, chef, and Hannah Andrews, right, manager, stand in front of Wahso's bird artwork, an ongoing theme in the restaurant. Wahso was recently awarded a Fodor's Choice award.
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After conducting an annual worldwide search for the best restaurants, the staff of Fodor’s travel guides rated local restaurant Wahso among its top picks for 2006.

One of five dining creations by Park City restaurateur Bill White, Wahso offers up pan Asian-style cuisine.

"We kind of use the whole Asian continent and draw the menu from every area on that with our palate," White said.

Out of a list of thousands of restaurants, Fodor’s editors awarded 10 restaurants the Fodor’s Choice 2006 award. The U.S. restaurants that made the cut were Wahso, Per Se in New York City, George’s at the Cove in La Jolla, Calif. and Chef Mavro in Oahu, Hawaii. The other six restaurant winners are located in India, Brazil, Belize, Switzerland, New Zealand and the Caribbean.

White said the Fodor’s Choice award will offer Wahso international attention and will open up a new marketing reach for the city. "This award shines a positive light not just on Wahso, but Park City and Utah in general as a great, desirable resort destination," he said. Wahso’s signature dishes include soy and ginger glazed sea bass over soba noodles, jasmine tea leaf smoked duck and Szechwan-style filet mignon over eggplant and asparagus lo mein. To add a unique twist to the traditional sake drink, Wahso specializes in sake martinis, with liquor and fruit juices shaken tableside. White said the name Wahso, the phonetic spelling for the French word for birds, was developed to coincide with artwork he purchased prior to opening the restaurant in 2000. White said his first step before opening each of his restaurants is to first seek out one or two decorative pieces to create a theme.

He said the bird theme stemmed from a purchase of turn-of-the-century hummingbird sketches. The penciled drawings, now the highlighted dcor of Wahso, were created by naturalist artist John Gould and are rumored to have once been offered to the Queen of England. White said he designed the Italian restaurant Grappa, the first of his restaurant ventures, with a rustic Tuscan farmhouse theme in mind. He modeled Chimayo, a Southwestern restaurant, after the mission sanctuary of Chimayo in New Mexico. The Windy Ridge Caf, named after mountain peak visible from the restaurant, offers sandwiches and fresh bakery items. Ghidotti’s, White’s newest addition, serves Italian cuisine in a Mediterranean-villa-meets-Roman-architecture themed restaurant.

"We are just trying to raise the bar in town," White said, "not only to make ourselves better, but to make the dining experience better for everyone." Over the past 12 years, White has grown his company into a multi-million dollar enterprise that now employees over 300 people. "It’s a big task to run that many places," he said, "but we have the blessing of having them close together." White’s restaurants Grappa, Chimayo and Wahso are located on Main Street. The Windy Ridge Caf is on Iron Horse Drive and Ghidotti’s opened earlier this year in the Redstone Towne Center. White said he now spends most of his time working in the kitchen of Ghidotti’s.

"You kind of birth the baby," he said.

White, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University’s hotel management program, said after he fine tunes and adjusts each new restaurant’s menu, he hands over the kitchen to its other chefs.

Wahso, located at 577 Main Street has been closed for renovations but will reopen for dinner this Thursday at 5 p.m. For more information call 615-0300 or visit http://www.wahso.com.


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