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Restaurant review: Deftly handling the Park City dining scene

First Published      Last Updated Jan 02 2017 02:36 pm

Park City • In a resort town made famous first by silver and now the silver screen (as well as the Greatest Snow on Earth), it can be difficult to find a balance between Hollywood glitz and glamour (and the accompanying price tag) and the realities of daily living in conservative Utah.

It can be even harder if you occupy what might be described as Park City's restaurant black hole. But in the seven months since Handle has opened, it appears to have overcome the unsuccessful history of the location at the base of Main Street with sellout crowds just about every evening regardless of season.

Handle is the creation of executive chef Briar Handly along with his wife, Melissa Gray, and Meagan Nash. American cuisine, with a focus on seasonal and regionally sourced ingredients, is prevalent on Handle's menu. It's artfully presented primarily on small plates divided into three sections: bites, cold and hot. A handful of hearty, entrée-size dishes and desserts round out the dining options.

From the bites menu, the stuffed olives ($6) immediately stole the show on our first visit. Green olives stuffed with sunchoke were tart and tangy while the breaded and fried outer coating offered just the right balance of fattiness.

As a lover of all sea creatures, I found it tragic the way the grilled and then chilled baby octopuses ($12) on the cold menu were treated the evening we ordered them. They were chewy to the point of near inedibility, and the Caesar salad accompaniment did nothing to save them from their rubbery state.

Hot menu items fared far better. Potentially poised to overtake quinoa in popularity, the hearty grain farro is here paired with almond milk and chunks of squash that resulted in a flavorful risottoesque dish ($10) that stuck to our ribs on a snowy evening.

A favorite of one dinner was certainly the veal ($16), cooked sous vide to preserve the delicate tenderness of the beef. A mascarpone and vanilla sauce with huckleberries all danced on the plate together exceedingly well.

A close second was found in the Idaho lamb ($16). Perfectly light red, the lamb loin was juicy while the hazelnut emulsion hit all the right flavor notes of nutty and sweet. As a finishing touch, thin slices of green apple and grilled celery root provided freshness and texture.

And if you're looking for greens to take center stage on the plate, the now ubiquitous Brussels sprouts ($10) were generous in flavor and proportion — if not entirely reminiscent of Eva's offering with hazelnuts for crunch and bacon sherry vinegar.

Returning to the sea, diver scallop ($14) with wagyu beef and pho broth had great flavor in every bite but was pricy for the four slivers of beef and single scallop.

The smoked trout sausage ($12) got an A+ for creativity, but the strong fish taste and mashed consistency of the sausage were more of a culinary turnoff. The pickled cauliflower and red pepper butter were successful components, however.

Moving to the hearty entrée portion of the menu, diners will find just four choices: Lock Duart salmon ($34), a bone-in prime ribeye ($58), fried chicken ($34) and the cheeseburger ($18). For $18, I expected more than a handful of french fries in a metal pail to accompany the burger, but the tomato jam was rich with flavor and the thick burger cooked to medium-rare had weight if not value.

Although I had every intention of trying the caramel budino featured in The New York Times Thanksgiving feature, a less sweet ending seemed the order of the day after so many savory items one evening. We opted for the beignets ($12). Our table was divided — half of us preferred the airy balls of fried dough dipped in chocolate crème anglaise while the other half swooned over the housemade Rice Krispies treats. Not a morsel was left on the plate.

Perhaps what I most like about Handle is that it's not too full of itself in the typical Park City resort-town fashion. A look at the drink menu is a great example. Order up a Cougar Town #2 cocktail ($12) with sherry and gin or the "champagne of beers" (Miller High Life) from WI, USA ($4). But that's not to say there isn't an interesting array of wines, beers and cocktails featuring local spirits, including Jackrabbit Gin (Star of the Morning, $11), Vida Tequila (Snyderville, $13) and High West double rye (Rattlesnake, $12). The Rattlesnake offers extra bite with absinthe and egg-white foam branded with an H.

Regardless of your gastronomic intentions at Handle for the evening, your server will deftly guide you no matter your requests. Questions about portion sizes or cocktail components were fielded easily, orders were taken promptly, dishes were delivered at lightning speed and drinks refilled neatly.

It appears that Handle has really gotten a handle on what Park City diners desire. The sharable, American-focused cuisine changes frequently with the seasons. Formidable talent presides in the kitchen and as a whole, the staff is well-educated and focused on customer service. Handle appears to have struck silver in Park City.

Heather L. King also writes for www.theutahreview.com and can be found on Twitter @slclunches





Food » HH H

Mood » HH H

Service » HH H

Noise » bb

At the bottom of Main Street in Park City, Handle is dishing up creative American cuisine highlighting seasonal and regionally sourced ingredients in artful small plate presentations.

Location » 136 Heber Ave., Park City; 435-602-1155

Online » www.handleparkcity.com

Hours » Open Monday through Sunday at 5 p.m.

Children’s menu » No

Prices » $$$

Liquor » All

Corkage » $15

Reservations » Yes

Takeout » No

Wheelchair access » Yes

Outdoor dining » No

On-site parking » No

Credit cards » All major