PARK CITY, Utah -- It's an improbable setting for a hip dining scene: upstairs in an enclosed shopping mall overlooking Main Street. Shabu restaurant not only manages to pull it off, but does so with flair. Its dishes are uniquely prepared and artfully presented in a chic setting that draws a trendy local crowd and visitors in the know (we discovered it through local friends).
Shabu is run by Kevin Valaika (the general manager) and his brother Robert (the chef) , who serve ``freestyle Asian cuisine." Translation: Japanese, Thai, and Chinese fare with a Western twist.
The restaurant's name comes from shabu shabu, a style of cooking that allegedly dates to the days of Genghis Khan, when the Mongol ruler developed a ``hot pot" style of cooking, designed to feed a hungry army that was always on the move. His troops huddled around large pots of boiling broth into which they dipped skewers of thinly sliced meat -- a fast cooking technique that preserved the army's valuable fuel and the meat's nutritional value.
Order a shabu shabu here and you can dip skewers of beef, chicken, seafood, tofu, and veggies into a vegetable or Thai coconut broth and eat with a variety of sauces over udon noodles.
If you're hungry after a full day on the slopes, you may find the regular entree portions a tad on the lean side, but there is plenty to choose from on the extensive menu. For starters, try the delicious dim sum or an assortment of fresh sushi rolls, including the Nitro Roll, with tempura shrimp, avocado, pineapple, and mango wrapped in tuna and served with a Japanese red pepper citrus sauce.
People come from around the valley for the sweet miso-glazed black cod and sake-steamed sea bass, both entrees . They also come because it's a cool place to hang out. The modern, Zen-like decor strikes a nice balance between funkiness and ambience. Creative artwork , including a metal fish sculpture and paintings by local artists , decorates the room with its red, earth-tone walls, and black ceiling with exposed pipes.
Shabu, Main Street Mall, 333 Main St., Park City, Utah. 435-645-SAKE (7253). shabupc.com. Open nightly, 5-11 . Entrees $21-$33. Reservations recommended. In summer, dine Thursday-Sunday on the outdoor patio with live jazz and a sushi bar .