A+ERestaurant Reviews

Ah so … Whaso

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Every summer in Park City there is an event called Savor the Summit. This dining adventure features many tables placed end-to-end down Main Street where you can sit and stuff yourself in full view of the street’s many restaurants.

This year Savor the Summit will be held on the evening of June 19. If you go, don’t miss Wahso Restaurant.

Wahso is one of the several businesses owned by Bill White Enterprises. It is located upstairs in a beautiful space which is decorated like a tasteful Frontier brothel with lots of Asian influences. Its old-fashioned, draped booths are also quite romantic. Before you enter the dining areas, you pass through a cozy bar that feels like a great place to hang out and meet the colorful Park City guests and townsfolk while enjoying a nice wine.

In my career as a chef and wine consultant I have worked twice in this city. I was the pastry chef for one season at Stein Eriksson Lodge many years ago. More recently, I worked as the wine manager at the semi-new Snowcreek Wine Store. Many times as a dining customer I’ve been disappointed with what Park City offers. But I wasn’t at Whaso, where I recently dined with Brad di Iorio.

Let me tell you about it.

Professionalism seems to be the key at Whaso. It is run by two geniuses who are fully educated in their crafts and trained to be excellent restaurateurs. The manager is Christian Frech, with whom I have had the privilege of attending wine conferences. He is young and energetic and a Certified Sommelier. He also has a degree from the Professional Culinary Institute in San Jose, California.

Christian’s talents are enhanced by Chef Ryan Burnham, who seems too young to be so talented and experienced. He is equally blessed by charm and good looks. Ryan graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, and two years ago he was wooed away by Alfred Bertolli, a fancy-schmancy New York chef who wanted Ryan to open his new restaurant in Miami. Ryan left and Wahso’s reputation suffered for a while. However, to our good fortune, the handsome Chef Burnham has been back in Park City for over a year, loving his home and life in the mountains.

We began with something quite traditional, yet something so old that it has become new again: crisp, delicate fried wontons served with a curry/mustard dipping sauce. Our first wine was a simple, yet elegant, Boniface Apremont, which is a lightly sparkling wine from the French Savoy. It’s crisp, with a slight hint of sparkle; I’ve had it before and always enjoy it. (You can get this wine at the new Wine Store and we recommend it for cheese fondue.)

Our first dish was a meticulously presented, architectural masterpiece — a sort of sushi that looked like it had been made out of Legos! It was perfectly cut squares of amberjack tuna served on a long plate. These hamachi squares were topped with aligned matchsticks of white nectarine and Fiji apple. Sprigs of baby dill gave the dish a ferny, ethereal look and tiny mushroom caps were  strategically placed on the corner of each piece of fish to complete the design. The whole plate was artfully drizzled with a citrus Ponzu — sort of a fruit-based soy sauce reduction. The whole thing was divine!

Next came some wood-fired shrimp served on a bed of avocado, mango and pineapple. A few intermingling fried rice-sticks gave the dish some surprising crunch and the plate was both dotted and drizzled with coriander coulis and red chile coulis. Beautiful and yummy!

Many restaurants are serving a tuna tartar these days. I’ve had it at the Metro and at the New Yorker with similar presentations. The tartar is made of Hawaiian tuna, hashed and molded into a disk and surrounded by shingled cucumber slices. What I liked most about Wahso’s version was the nice homemade crisps of wonton and coriander.

Soon after that we received a most beautiful plate composed of stunning colors and unusual combinations. It was braised, then grilled, small octopus sided by braised baby bok choy and prepared fingerling potatoes. The plate was laced with a sauce which was called a Riesling vinaigrette. It was served hot and, to me, tasted more like a pan glazed reduction than a vinaigrette. The plate was gorgeous and I loved the accompaniments, but I thought the octopus was chewy and sort of tough. This was my least favorite offering of the night, though this just may be the way octopus is. We chose a delicious Londer Dry Gewurtz to go with this dish.

We were then served two more entrées—I call them this because they were too large to be appetizers or small plates, but were not as large as a traditional entrée plate. The portions were generous and just right for the kind of meal we were having. I had brought a Capiaux Sonoma Pinot Noir ‘06 from my own cellar and Christian poured a French rival wine for us to compare — Nicolas Potel, Savigny-les-Beaune. The comparison was fun and the French wine was actually a bit lighter and more acidic while the Pinot was bigger and fruitier — just as we all expected them to be!

Next, Brad and I were delighted by large medallions of tender, grilled lamb tenderloin. The plate was drizzled with a wine reduction infused with pomegranate and actually garnished with plump pomegranate fruits. In the center was a fabulous saffron risotto dished up at exactly the right moment. We also had a beautiful Alaskan black cod. The cut was thick and moist and melted in my mouth. It was presented a bit like a soup in a delicious Asian broth with veggies and a hint of Miso.

Our dessert, which I almost turned down, was spectacular: coconut infused crème brūlée custard served in a perfectly halved coconut shell with the sugar burnt on right before service. With the custard — also architecturally placed — was a haystack macaroon flanked by sweet pocky sticks dipped in chocolate. This desert was not only great to look at but an invention Julia Child herself could only have dreamed of!

Please enjoy the summer re-opening of Wahso by paying them a visit with your friends and family. For a Utah-owned and operated establishment, it rivals the likes of Spruce and St. Regis! I give it 93 points.

Wahso is located at 577 Main Street, Park City, Utah and can be reached at 435-615-0300.

For more information on the Savor the Summit visit savorthesummit.com or call 435-645-6734.

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