A vision of Asian fusion with a great burger in it

Published June 9, 2010 10:29 am
Dining out • Japanese focus and Hawaiian touches provide rich flavors, but Hapa's service needs work.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kimball Junction • For a month and a half in 2006, reporters from The Tribune consumed 81 hamburgers to find the best burger in the state. The then 1-year-old Hapa Grill's Hapa burger was deemed the winner. At $9.95, it sported a half-pound of organic beef, charbroiled to just under medium and was served on a soft, yet sturdy bakery bun and was topped with romaine lettuce, red onion and tomato slices. Dainty matchstick fries came alongside.

At a recent visit, I ordered the burger — it's $11.95 now — and it's just as juicy and delectable as it was then. (Today it comes with steak fries, slaw or a side salad.)

Some of the menu items on Hapa Grill's 2010 menu warrant praise too, but gone is that "beauty of balance," as The Tribune saw it, that a Japanese restaurant with Hawaiian touches should produce Utah's winning burger. Today, Hapa is less "island" and more straight Asian fusion. The sushi bar is bustling and the décor remains heavily Japanese, including a few short-legged tables with floor cushions.

One of the dishes that really works is the lump crab cake and avocado sliders ($12.95). Two of these crab-packed beauties would make a great lunch, along with sashimi or one of the more than two dozen sushi rolls, including the spider roll ($13.95) with soft shell crab or the unagi maki roll ($8.95) with fresh water eel. Pair any of these with hot or chilled sake, beer, wine or vodka martinis of all variations, including a decent vanilla lemon drop ($8).

Other menu items seem like the "greatest hits" of Asian menus, such as lettuce cups ($9.95) — choose rib-eye or chicken — which are ubiquitous on more than just Asian menus these days. Green papaya salad ($ 8.95) is a giant half-dome of finely shredded green papaya, a slew of cilantro leaves and a smattering of crushed peanuts. Add a protein — grilled chicken or shrimp — for $3 or $4, respectively. Thai beef salad ($10.95) gets its name perhaps from the Thai citrus vinaigrette and crispy fried rice noodles that dress up rib-eye strips, mixed greens, tomatoes, cilantro and peanuts.

Entrées offer a medley of proteins, including a fall-off-the-bone-tender, braised Korean beef short rib ($23.95). Seared scallops and shrimp ($16.95) were well cooked, though the Hawaiian salsa, which had me thinking pineapple, instead was more like thin, incendiary Chinese chile sauce.

Sage chicken ($16.95) with its sage, capers and Yukon gold mashed potatoes, seemed like an anomaly — along with the burger — on the Asian-bent menu. Moreover, the menu indicated the fowl was cooked sous vide — slowly poached in a vacuum-sealed pouch at a low temperature. The meat I tasted was dry and stringy, two descriptors you'd never utter with true sous-vide.

If dessert is a must, get the mango mochi ($4.95), four to five orbs of mango ice cream encased in a thin layer of sugary glutinous rice.

The service our party received began well, but then deteriorated when other tables filled up and a carafe of water was plopped on our table instead of a server keeping our water glasses full.

Also funky was the timing of dishes. We received our entrées in three waves. Plus, you don't expect to hear "Who had the …?" in a restaurant of this caliber. Obviously, a few of the waitstaff need more training.

If someone asked me for a recommendation of where to dine in Park City, I'd hesitate in saying, "Go to Hapa Grill." But, if someone asked where the best burger in Salt Lake City can be had, I wouldn't hesitate to say, "Go to Hapa Grill." The burger is still a winner. I just wish the rest of the menu and the experience was, as well.

E-mail Lesli J. Neilson at lneilson@sltrib.com. —


Hapa Grill

Food • Hhj

Mood • HHhj

Service • Hhj

Noise • bbb

A decent Asian fusion option in Park City but still the place to go for a great burger. Service and kitchen timing could improve.

Location • 1571 W. Redstone Center Drive, Kimball Junction; 435-575-4272

Online • http://www.hapafish.com

Hours • Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Monday to Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday, 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m.

Children's menu • Yes

Prices • $$

Liquor • Full bar

Corkage • $7

Reservations • Large parties only

Takeout • Yes

Wheelchair access • Yes

Outdoor dining • No

On-site parking • Yes

Credit cards • All major

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