Four unique eateries that blend and bend traditional flavors
Trendy eats, ultramodern decor, self-serve dining are all the rage. Foods reflect evolving lifestyles and cultural mores while pulling from wide-ranging influences. The food trends we see today are a veritable swirl of flavors, ingredients, technology and atmosphere.
So, what’s dictating our food choices du jour and those of tomorrow? Simply put: the flavors of the world. Culinary diversity is sweeping Utah by storm.
Years ago, the state’s ethnic cuisines represented a niche market. Today’s modern palates crave not only exotic flavors and texture but local sourcing, eye-popping presentation and a “chill” ambiance where you feel comfortable hanging out and savoring the moment, a type of “traveling while staying in place.”
Here are four eateries that prove unique food, flavor and presentation never grow old and are, in fact, qualities destined to be the wave of the future.
Cook It Yourself
A new player in the downtown Salt Lake food scene, Mr. Shabu is the latest in Asian hot-pot dining, featuring thinly sliced meats and vegetables that you can cook yourself in specialty broths. Featuring an impressive spread of sliced meats and a colorful salad bar, owner Jaehan Park and manager Julia Kang have perfected the Japanese fondue pot, known as shabu shabu, in their modern eatery at the Gateway mall.
“We wanted to create an interactive dining experience,” Park says. This all-you-can-eat/cook-it-yourself restaurant allows diners to tailor a meal to their personal preferences. It also means food choices can be adapted for those with food restrictions. Their easy-to-follow “How to Shabu” menu provides six broths and meat selections, along with a dizzying array of fresh ingredients ranging from noodles and rice cakes to seafood to fresh veggies such as cabbage, bok choy, carrots, bean sprouts, daikon, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, lettuce, peppers, onion and corn. After cooking, dip your bites into a variety of succulent sauces. There’s nary a dull moment, which makes this a special occasion kind of place but one you can visit on a regular basis.
Mr. Shabu, The Gateway
159 Rio Grande St., SLC
Let’s Scoop Together
Mahider Ethiopian Restaurant has been serving up family meals in Salt Lake for almost a decade. A meal here is often served on a single large plate over injera, or teff, a sourdough sponge crepe. The teff is meant to be ripped apart and used to scoop up spicy veggies and stewed meats (called wot) as well as a homemade buttermilk cheese.
Sheshi Tadesse, owner and manager of Mahider, promotes the Ethiopian tradition of having people eat together, never alone. “[Sharing] a large plate means we eat together, keeping family bonds together,” he says. Food is eaten with your hands from a shared plate. Using only fresh ingredients—never frozen—he brings his family recipes to life. Order a platter for two or four with lentils, cabbage, chicken, beef, cheese and more. Be sure to enjoy a cup of their made-to-order fresh-roasted Ethiopian coffee at the meal’s end, for which there is even a two-hour coffee ceremony offered on special occasion.
Mahider Ethiopian Restaurant & Market
1465 S. State, Ste. 7, SLC
It’s Enzyme Time
Healthy + sustainable = Rawtopia, an eatery serving up organically grown, gluten free, non-GMO foods using low-temperature techniques that preserve vital enzymes and nutrients. Omar Abou-Ismail, owner and COO, created his eclectic menu by defying labels and focusing solely on food as an energy source. “This restaurant comes from my heart. I’m not trying to imitate anyone,” he says. His mission is to provide nutritionally dense, environmentally friendly foods to Utah. To do that, Abou-Ismail employs his scientific background to derive the maximum nutrition from foods; he uses sprouts and other foods rich in enzymes whenever possible.
“The food is filling because you are satiated from all the nutrients,” Abou-Ismail says. It’s impossible not to love Rawtopia’s diverse menu offerings, including flavorful cooked and raw Lebanese and West African dishes, where everything is made from scratch, including organic spices and herbs.
Rawtopia Living Cuisine and Beyond
3961 Wasatch Blvd., SLC
SLC Eatery takes your palate on a journey around the world with Asian, French, Mexican and Japanese notes that create a distinct twist on contemporary American cuisine. Paul Chamberlain, owner and co-chef, starts off the tour with a rotating amuse-bouche to enliven the taste buds. “Our goal is to create small plates that are comfortable and not too exotic,” he says, a quality that resonates in the restaurant’s casual ambiance.
SLC Eatery enhances its regular menu with a variety of appetizers that roll by on a multi-tiered metal cart. From turnips in miso-apple butter to beet and blue cheese tartine to tuna crudo to a smoked strip loin spring roll, the appetizer-size morsels range in price from $3 to $7 and can be selected, dim-sum style, throughout dinner. Add on some small plates, which, Chamberlin says, lend a refined, clean “and very intentional” flavor to the meal, and you might hit upon the perfect meal. SLC Eatery is open for dinner daily with a weekend brunch menu.
1017 S. Main, SLC