Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Shabu (Park City, Utah)

Main Street Mall
333 Main St.
Park City, UT 84060

To save money, our ski group decided to eat out only once during our four nights in Park City (not counting lunches at the ski lodge, which were entirely necessary). A girl I'd met during a ski lesson recommended Shabu on Main Street as a great Asian fusion restaurant favored by locals and largely unknown to tourists due to its hidden spot on the second story of a nondescript mall. The dining guide we'd picked up at the airport listed Shabu's entree prices as ranging from $13-25, which seemed reasonable so we decided to give it a try.

The dining guide lied.

Appetizers went as high as $20 with
most entrees in the mid to high $30s. But the atmosphere was pleasant (dimly-lit, mahogany furnishings, modern art in sensual colors) and the food smelled delicious, so we stayed.

The drink menu was extensive, with many creative martinis including my delicious Jupiter Cosmo (Park City's signature drink, according to another airport magazine) which was made with Chambord, orange vodka, pomegranate juice, and orange juice. The other drinks looked equally tasty but one of our dining companions was disappointed in his overly tart Green Dragon with green tea and lemon juice.

Instead of one of the listed appetizers, Tom and I decided to order the Killipede, a maki roll with spicy tuna and tempura shrimp wrapped in avocado and topped with two different kinds of roe. Although Tom doubted how sushi could really be "that good", this defied our expectations and treated our taste buds to an explosion of taste and texture. The accompanying sweet sauce (teriyaki) paired perfectly with the generous portion of shrimp, the fresh tuna, and the creamy avocado, while the little piles of roe burst with satisfying saltiness between our teeth. The other couple ordered an ahi tuna appetizer which looked decent and came on a bed of creamy sweet potatoes (the only portion that I tasted).

For the main course, our opinionated waiter strongly recommended we skip the restaurant's namesake dish, the shabu shabu (a Japanese style of cooking at the table in which one dips uncooked meat and veggies into very hot broth). We followed his advice and I ordered the Miso-Glazed Black Cod; Tom had the Wok Seared Diver Scallops; the other couple had the Freestyle Sea Bass and the Shabu equivalent of Peking Duck. When the food arrived, everyone waited anxiously to dig in while I postponed the eating for a few pictures. The food was almost too pretty to eat, especially because of the bright purple garnish of edible orchid. But eat we did, and for the most part, I enjoyed every bite. My cod had a beautiful creamy texture and the miso helped bring out the fish's natural sweetness. The accompanying stir-fry of broccoli and mushroom was nondescript but the halved baby carrots not only looked pretty; they were also perfectly soft yet with a nice bite. The dish also came with a crab-stuffed pastry which tasted a little off and didn't add much to the dish.

Unfortunately, my dish was probably the best of the lot. Tom's diver scallops were overcooked and hence chewy. The steamed bass with Asian vegetables in a black bean broth was good but a bit bland. The Peking duck arrived looking like an enormous burrito, with a side of green beans in an apparently fiery hot peanut sauce. While everyone else still enjoyed their food, I venture to say I enjoyed mine the most.

Lured by the dessert menu, we ordered two: Chocolate Tempura Ice Cream and Warm Banana Cake. I did not try the ice cream although it looked suitably crisp and delicious. The banana cake was homey and comforting, with big chunks of banana in and on top, and a rich creme anglais. Not the best dessert I've had but certainly satisfying.

The dining guide may have tricked us into dining at Shabu, but our senses did not lead us astray. The rich smells coming from the other patrons' tables had us ordering eagerly despite the hefty price tag, and for that decision, our stomachs were justly rewarded. The food from Shabu was far from perfect but it was worth the cost - and coming from a spendthrift such as myself, that is a rare compliment indeed.

Food: 8.5
Service: 7
Decor: 8
Overall: 7.8

Cross-posted on Well Fed on the Town

1 comment:

Tom said...

I would disagree with your ratings. My scallops were not that great although I liked the seabass dish more than you did. I also thought the service was only so-so, especially for a restaurant with those kind of prices. The waiter's suggestion not to get the Shabu was brusque and a little rude I think. I also think the wait staff was a little less than attentive at times.
Food: 7.5
Service: 6
Atmosphere: 8