1571 W. Redstone Center Drive, Kimball Junction ; 435-575-4272
A decent Asian fusion option in Kimball Junction but still the place to go for a great burger. Service and kitchen timing could improve.
Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi
Hours: M-Th, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-9 p.m.; F-S, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Su, 5-9 p.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Corkage: $ 7
Reservations: For large parties only
Recommended Dishes: Hapa burger, crab cake and avocado sliders, mango mochi.
June 9, 2010
Hapa still grills a great burger
By Lesli J. Neilson
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.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.
March 28, 2006
Burger Madness: The Savory 64
By Mary Brown Malouf
Every March, basketball buffs go nuts as the NCAA sweats its way through a pyramid of games to determine the college basketball champion team. It's not an absolute best, there are too many variables for that, and it's not a lasting best - the top could topple next year - but for a moment, one team stands taller than the rest.
Sometimes, you just want someone to tell you what's best.
A few months ago, I wrote about four locally famous burger joints - Cotton Bottom Inn, B & D Burgers, Hires Big H and Crown Burgers - and unwittingly touched a nerve. More than 50 passionate burger eaters responded. Many told me I was right on, many others said I was way off, and everyone told me exactly who served the best burger.
That's a lot of burgers. Aiming for fairness, The Tribune added 32 more burgers to the list in an attempt to find the best burger in Utah. Burger madness ensued.
A burger made it into our "Savory 64" brackets via one or more of four qualifiers: reader recommendation, reputation as a burger of note, rumor and research.
We did not eat every available burger - we excluded national chains from the tournament and, despite an earnest recommendation from her own child inviting us to dinner, Ms. Van Engelenhoven's burger remained out of the competition.
Over the past few weeks, a team of designated Tribune burger-eaters, often accompanied by hungry friends and family, fanned out in search of the best burger. We ate burgers from St. George to Logan, from Tooele to Green River and a whole lot in between. We ate burgers until even our teenagers begged for a salad.
In all cases, we ordered the basic burger - not the signature burger or even the cheeseburger. We eschewed the pastrami burgers at many Greek-owned places. We sternly skipped Hires Big H's Golden H burger, the Star burger at Shooting Star Saloon and the Dino burger at Top Spot. We stripped it down to the basics of beef and bun.
We agreed from the outset, the perfect burger is defined by proportion. A mathematic expression for this could be: (toasted bun X 2) + (grilled meat cooked to medium) + (leaf lettuce, thinly sliced fresh onion, thinly sliced tomato, pickles + (mayo/ketchup/mustard/fry sauce) = one great burger.
No libation, not the brews at Cotton Bottom Inn and Bohemian Brewery & Grill nor the milkshakes or concretes at Iceberg and Nielsen's Frozen Custard persuaded us. We closed our eyes to ambience - no extra points for the dollar bills on the ceiling at Shooting Star Saloon. We omitted our opinions about service - no demerits for waiting 45 minutes at Wimpy's Place in Vernal - and did our best to let the burgers compete on a level court or, in this case, table.
We drew up burger evaluation sheets, listing all the attributes of a burger and demanding scrutiny of every element from the pickle to the presentation.
Major considerations were:
THE BUN: Sesame-seed buns prevailed. But a bakery-made or homemade bun with or without seeds scored more points than a mass-produced packaged bun. A toasted bun always beat a raw bun. And soggy bun syndrome, SBS, doomed a burger's chances of winning. A burger should never be made to wait.
THE BEEF: Chargrilled beef scored higher than griddled beef. Half-pound patties received no more points than quarter-pound patties; instead, we awarded higher scores to burgers that tasted like beef and were cooked to medium. (See story below left.)
THE CONDIMENTS: Freshness is essential. Crisp, large pieces of cool, fresh lettuce leaves were preferable to shredded lettuce. No serious contender lacked onions, fresh or grilled, but the onion had to be recently sliced, the thinner the better. Onions sliced too far in advance, creating an oxidized stink, cost many a burger critical points. A slice of tomato is essential to a burger's ultimate success, but frankly, the state of tomatoes in winter meant that we never encountered a decent slice in any bracket, so it didn't help or hinder any burger's rating.
We took the burgers as they came from the kitchen - with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise or fry sauce, even mysterious additions such as the hamburger "relish" at Maddox Ranch House.
A common burger misconception is that the meat is the most important component of a burger. This accounts for a number of slippery messes we wrestled with - like the massive meat patty that dissolved the bun back into primal dough at The Eating Establishment in Park City. Other misguided burgermeisters seem to think that the taller the burger, the better. A burger is meant to be a hand sandwich. Having to resort to knife and fork, as we finally did with Pine's towering ciabatta roll and patty, signaled defeat for an otherwise delicious burger.
In truth, there is no single most important component of a burger. Only the relation between all the components equals perfection; proportion is paramount.
Eighty-one burgers were quickly narrowed down to 64 and placed into four brackets - Patty Place, Sizzle City, Juicy Junction and Grilleville. The Elite Eight were then sampled and scored a second time by food staffers.
As is often the case in the NCAA Tournament, the outcome of burger madness is surprising. Our Final Four range in style and geography.
Drum roll, please
The best burger in Utah is the Hapa burger, found only at Kimball Junction's Hapa Grill, a Japanese restaurant owned by the Latitude Restaurant Group.
I can hear the howling now. But before you e-mail me in protest, hear me out.
The Hapa burger is a half-pound of chargrilled organic ground beef, cooked to just the underside of medium, sandwiched between a specially made bakery bun that has been buttered and toasted on the grill, then topped with crisp romaine lettuce leaves, an -inch-thick slice of sweet red onion and the same pallid tomato that topped every other burger we encountered.
There were no tricks here. Meticulous attention was paid in the preparation of each ingredient, with a Zenlike understanding of the necessary balance between each ingredient.
And when you think about it, it's not so surprising that a Japanese restaurant should produce this year's best burger. This is a culture famous for a dangerous cuisine that balances between delectable and disastrous. Preparing dishes such as sashimi and fugu, a blowfish that requires a license to cook it, demands the utmost attention to ensure that the palate is delighted rather than endangered. Hapa's cooks seem to have learned the beauty of balance from Latitude's Japanese executive chef, Toshio Sekikawa.
The NCAA March Madness takes place on and off the hardwood court. Office and bar pools, Web sites and sports books are intensely involved. Burger madness grips people in the same way. Anyone has a chance, underdogs - or in this case, underburgers - can win.
The Final Four
Hapa Grill: The champion
In Kimball Junction, the Hapa burger ($9.95) is a half-pound organic burger served between a toasted bakery bun with romaine leaves, tomato and red onion slices. The choice of blue, Swiss or cheddar cheese and matchstick fries and ketchup come with the burger.
Center Street Grill
Center Street Grill, in Logan, serves a quarter-pound patty ($2.49) sandwiched between a toasted, above-average cornmeal bun with fresh romaine leaves, sliced tomato, red onions and dill pickle sliced lengthwise.
Shooting Star Saloon
In Huntsville, Shooting Star Saloon uses a secret seasoning for its quarter-pound hamburger ($3.25) with grilled onions, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. No one under 21 is allowed and it is a cash-only establishment.
The grilled sirloin burger ($9.25) at Bambara in Salt Lake City comes with upscale chipotle aioli, balsamic caramelized onions, butter lettuce leaves, sliced tomatoes and pickles. Though we had it plain, the half-pounder comes with Sonoma Jack cheese and hand-cut fries.
What the tasters said:
This looks like you'd want a burger to look fresh with lots of toppings and delicious-looking meat.
This thing is a monster!
Make sure your napkin dispenser is full, cuz it's gonna get messy, but it's worth it.
Reminds me of the Big Boy restaurant burgers of my youth.
Probably the worst burger I've ever eaten!
June 3, 2005
By Nancy Hobbs
"Hapa" is a Hawaiian term for an individual of mixed heritage, initially coined to describe children born to the state's growing population of Hawaiian and Caucasian couples. Its use has grown to mean "half and half" in many situations. For owners of the new Hapa Grill at the Redstone Village in Kimball Junction, the name helps define the food and atmosphere, which is Asian fusion with fresh influence from the Pacific Islands.
Hapa Grill is the newest venture of the Latitude Restaurant Group, which is becoming a force in Utah dining with its three Mikado restaurants, Kampai in Park City and the E Center's Harry's, and will soon extend its influence to Sugar House, at the former site of L'Avenue.
Hapa opened in early spring, catching the end of the traditional "mud season" for skiers and a "down time" in the Park City area, with summer tourists a couple of weeks away and only locals out dining and looking for entertainment.
That helps explain the small number of customers on two recent visits to Hapa Grill. But that meant attentive service as we ordered several items from Hapa Grill's "small plates" menu, with 20 intriguing choices.
One is the signature "Tosh's Prawns," named for Toshio Sekikawa, the Latitude group's executive chef, who was lured here from a successful 30-year career creating sushi in San Francisco. The plate, an impressive tower of crispy, tempura-fried prawns with a delicious citrus aioli, is one of several dishes offered at most, if not all, of the Mikado family of restaurants. Likewise with the sushi; the fish for all of the restaurants is from the same source, according to Hapa Grill chef Stan Battle.
Having favorably reviewed a variety of the terrific sushi at the Salt Lake City Mikado, we tried some items unique to Hapa.
The poki tuna was a colorful, fresh mix of sashimi tuna, papaya and avocado dressed with a touch of sesame oil and served in a martini glass. The Maui Wowi, Hapa's custom maki roll, is a tasty combination of crab, shrimp and scallops topped with a luscious unagi sauce.
Each plate is visually perfect, and Hapa's presentation of Asian lettuce cups is among the prettiest, with a half-dozen lettuce leaves, each with a tasty bite of ribeye steak, pine nuts and scallions, circling a centerpiece of flash-fried rice noodles that don't taste like much, but look like a fragile work of art.
Artful presentation and delicious flavors are Hapa's strong suits. Value is its short suit, at least with some items.
Small plates range from $4 for edamame or Asian fries -- addictive ginger mashed potatoes wrapped in flour skins and deep fried -- to $12 for the Maui Wowi or several other fresh-fish treats. But the portions for many of those might be best described as "minimalist." The fries come in an order of four ($1 each), and a single, small crab cake is $8, though it is mostly fresh crab and macadamia nuts, without heavy breading. And the poki tuna's presentation is deceiving. It looks like a reasonably sized tuna and fresh fruit cocktail for $9, but after a couple of bites you discover that a half lemon in the bottom of the glass means it is less than it seemed.
The sandwich and entree portion of the menu offers better value, with a Hapa jerk wrap made of chicken, vegetables and a creamy yogurt sauce for $8, including a side of tangy slaw or Asian fries. In the same price range is a taco wrap made with lettuce, ground beef and rice; a Hapa burger; a grilled chicken or even a po' boy sandwich made with prawns.
Specialty dishes likewise seem reasonably priced, from Hapa curry made with seafood, vegetables and tofu for $9, to the most expensive item on the menu: filet mignon for $20, which is in line with other nice restaurants.
Several choices for children, including shrimp tempura or chicken teriyaki, all about $6, add to the attractiveness of Hapa for area families.
Though I question the value of some of Hapa's small plates, for the most part I appreciate smaller portions. My seared ahi salad with jalapenos and a wasabi dressing, a terrific combination of flavors, was just right; I ate every bite and had room to share a delicious dessert of chai tea creme brulee.
Hapa Grill offers a menu of sushi and Asian fusion dishes, with an exotic touch of Hawaiian freshness and a comfortable atmosphere for dining with family or friends.