One of my very favorite Park City restaurants isn’t one of the new kids on the block. In fact, my first rave review of it happened back in 2008, when the eatery in question was called Yuki Arashi. Since then, new owners have taken over and changed the name to Yuki Yama Sushi, but the food, service, and ambiance is every bit as stellar as it was some 13 years ago.
Yuki means “snow” in Japanese and yama is Japanese for “mountain.” It’s not surprising that co-owner Matt Baydala – who worked at Yuki Arashi as a manager back in the early days – would rechristen his restaurant Yuki Yama, since he is nothing if not an avid outdoorsman, ski enthusiast, and has been a blogger for Ski Utah in addition to his day/night job. Now partnered with supremely talented chef/co-owner Kirk Terashima, Baydala’s Yuki Yama Sushi is one of the most sought-after tatami tables in town.
We recently visited Yuki Yama to celebrate my stepson, Jeremy’s, birthday since he is a serious sushi devotee, as is our entire family. It was an excellent choice, kicking off with a specialty starter of Suzuki Crudo ($24). This outstanding sharable plate begins with slices of striped bass sashimi which are rolled around fresh black mint with citrusy habanero tangerine kosho and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. What a way to begin a meal!
Next up was a dish that I went gaga for years ago at Yuki Arashi, and I’m so glad it is still on the menu. It’s Wagyu Beef Tataki ($28). This is a DIY dish where the beef is cooked at the table on a sizzling hot Himalayan block of sea salt. It begins with thin, sashimi-style slices of uber-marbled raw Wagyu zabuton beef. As I understand it, this cut of Wagyu beef – similar to a Denver cut – is called zabuton which means “Little Pillow” in Japanese due to its tenderness and beautiful marbling. The slices of beef are quickly seared on the hot salt rock – which obviously imparts a subtle saltiness to the meat – and then dipped in cilantro red pepper and/or citrus soy dipping sauces. Yuki Yama’s Wagyu Beef Tataki is seriously one of the best things I’ve ever put into my mouth.
Then, it was back to another amazing shared plate called Iwana “Lox” ($22). It’s a clever take on deli-style lox, albeit a much upgraded one. Smoked and cured pieces of iwana (Arctic char) are served with wasabi crème (which sits in for creamed cheese in this version of lox), house-cured ikura (red salmon roe), garnished with nasturtium leaves, and brushed with sweet soy sauce called nikiri.
Throughout the evening at Yuki Yama, service was top-notch from our server Justin and others, including even a very efficient busser. And, the restaurant features an excellent beverage program that includes limited availability Japanese sake and whiskey such as Ohishi Tokubetsu Reserve and the “emperor” of sake: Nakao Maboroshi Kurobako. There is also a very appealing and well-selected beer, wine, spirits and cocktail list, not to mention non-alcoholic beverages, including Japanese sodas.
The nigiri and sashimi at Yuki Yama are above par, and choices range from kanpachi, madai, shima aji, hotategai, and hon maguro, to tombo, tamago, tako, suzuki and more. The restaurant also offers limited availability chu-toro (fatty bluefin tuna with white soy) and uni – sea urchin from the waters near Santa Barbara. Our 12-piece nigiri assortment ($50) was absolutely wonderful.
But, man cannot live on raw fish alone. And, since I am a ramen enthusiast, I had to try the ramen. There are three ramen options at Yuki Yama: kimchi, vegetarian, and pork, as well as sukiyaki udon. The kimchi ramen with house-made kimchi is spicy and strong, but I really liked the pork ramen ($19) with velvety homemade broth, Kurobuta pork belly, scallions, kamaboko and poached egg.
My stepson loves a delicious, well-made hand roll which is exactly what he got when he ordered the Negitoro Hand Roll ($14). This was sushi-grade minced fatty bluefin tuna, wrapped in nori with rice, green onion, freshly grated wasabi, ginger and white soy. Note that fresh-grated wasabi is something you rarely find in American sushi eateries, so kudos to Yuki Yama for providing it. Once you’ve tried fresh wasabi, you probably won’t want to go back to the wasabi paste that most places serve.
Meat selections at Yuki Yama include Wagyu Oxtail Gyoza ($15), Panko-Fried Chicken ($19), Lamb Lollipops ($24), which I adore, and Baby Back Ribs ($19). Jeremy tried and loved the ribs: five tender baby back pork ribs with an interesting and inventive jalapeño-chocolate teriyaki glaze, garnished with scallions and sesame seeds.
Of course, we couldn’t visit Yuki Yama Sushi without trying some of their special maki rolls. So, we started with an 84060 roll ($17). That’s the zip code for Historic Park City – and a roll with tempura shrimp, red & snow crab (no fake crab here), spring greens, and mango rolled in soy paper with sweet soy sauce.
Not quite stuffed to the gills yet – there were four of us, remember – we ordered a second maki roll, and this one I liked even better than the first. The Chiller Roll ($19) is sushi heaven: steamed sushi rice, tuna and cucumber, rolled and topped with albacore, paper thin lemon slices, tempura scallions, serrano chile slices, fried red pepper threads, and jalapeño vinaigrette. Wow! What a roll!
Somehow, we still managed to consume a third maki roll; this one well-suited to vegetarians. The Beatrix Kiddo ($14) – named for “The Bride” character in Kill Bill – is a melange of avocado, daikon, cucumber carrot, mango, greens, shiso and sprouts, all rolled in soy paper with jalapeño vinaigrette. Coming after so much food, I was thankful that it’s a maki roll on the lighter side.
Since taking the reins at Yuki Yama, messrs. Baydala and Terashima have managed to take an already excellent restaurant and somehow make it even better. Yuki Yama Sushi isn’t just one of the best sushi restaurants in Utah, it’s one of the best restaurants, period.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week:
“If I were trapped in one city and had to eat one nation’s cuisine for the rest of my life, I would not mind eating Japanese. I adore Japanese food. I love it.” — Anthony Bourdain
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.