An enormous variety of top-notch Eastern cuisine
By Christine Balaz
Salt Lake City Local Expert
Salt Lake City boasts a thriving and surprisingly diverse restaurant scene, with cuisines ranging from Italian to Brazilian. Though its Irish restaurants can be counted on one hand, it would take the fingers of an extended family to count Salt Lake City's Asian restaurants. And while nearly every town in the United States has a Chinese restaurant, few can claim the quality and variety of Chinese restaurants that Salt Lake can. And Chinese food represents just a fraction of the Asian cuisine available in Salt Lake Valley.
If you're a fan of sushi, you have the opportunity to visit Takashi - possibly the best restaurant along the Wasatch Front, regardless of genre. Or if you typically avoid sushi because of its spendiness, head south about 15 minutes on State Street to the Red Ginger Bistro. This Chinese and Japanese restaurant prepares a variety of appetizers, side dishes, and entrees in addition to its sushi. Offering a 50% discount on all rolls (and additional daily specials), Red Ginger Bistro allows you to utterly feast on high-quality sushi without spending more $10 a person.
If you're in the mood to try Asian fusion, head south even farther to Midvale and pay a visit to Asian Star. Or if you don't mind driving north to Bountiful, check out Mandarin. This award-winning restaurant is considered to be one of the top 25 Chinese restaurants in the entire nation. But if you'd rather stick to the downtown area, you must try the Himalayan Kitchen, a Nepali and Indian restaurant. Come for dinner - or try their legendary (and affordable!) all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.
Ho Ho Gourmet
Ahh... dim sum! If you're looking for this delicious, cart-served version of Chinese food, then you need look no farther than the Ho Ho Gourmet, which serves dim sum daily. Alternatively, if you're looking for ordinary entrees, you'll find an extensive menu waiting for you. Start your meal with any of the two dozen soups and appetizers, and move on to chow mein, chop suey, beef, pork, chicken, duck, fried rice, foo young, seafood, or vegetable dishes. If you're dining with a group, try any of the several family dinner options. Or if you feel like treating yourself, order one of the chef's suggestions. (801-487-7700)
The density of restaurants in downtown Salt Lake City is astounding. And though the vast majority of Salt Lake Valley eateries are concentrated in that norther portion of the valley floor, the southern end of Salt Lake Valley has its share of gems. Asian Star, which is located in Midvale, is one of these. An Asian fusion restaurant with an elegant and modern dining room, Asian Star specializes in spicy Szechuan and Hunan cuisines, as well as the more delicate Mandarin and Cantonese varieties. Additionally, Asian Star's menu contains numerous Japanese entrees and a full selection of sushi. Unlike many restaurants, Asian Star offers an extensive selection of gluten-free and vegan options. (801-566-8838)
Vegetarians have grown to expect less from restaurants: meals, minus the meat. However, at Shanghai Cafe, vegetarians will find themselves in an unusual situation. This restaurant, which specializes in vegetarian cuisine, offers more in this genre than it does in the meat category. In fact, their vegetarian dishes are so flavorful and satisfying, that meat-eaters find themselves opting for the vegetarian options in favor of chicken, pork, or beef. Especially popular is the imitation "chicken," which is so tasty that most regulars order this in favor of the real chicken. Whether you're a meat-eater or an herbivore, if you're craving Chinese or Vietnamese food, swing by Shanghai Cafe for lunch or dinner. (801-322-1841)
P.F. Chang's China Bistro
When a restaurant chain has more than 200 locations, you know it has something going for it. Luckily for the Wasatch Front, P. F. Chang's operates one if its branches in Salt Lake City. Whereas Chinese food in the U. S. generally has a reputation for being cheap and salty, P. F. Chang's does a total 180 on this preconception. Offering a high-end, gourmet version of Chinese cuisine, this restaurant gives guests an opportunity to choose from dozens and dozens of dishes, all prepared to meet consistently high standards. And unlike many other Chinese restaurants, P. F. Chang's has enough seating space to comfortably accommodate large groups. (801-539-0500)
Located on 700 East and 2100 South, and quite near I-80 and I-15, Sampan is easily accessible from any location within the Salt Lake Valley. As such, it has become the area's go-to restaurant for fast and affordable Chinese food. And when you're talking about quantity and speed, this restaurant can't be beat. Offering innumerable dishes and combinations thereof, Sampan will fill your belly with appetizers, soups, and an entree for as little as $10. Whether you enjoy your meal in the restaurant, or at home as take-out, you'll find your meal filled with delicious sauces, and generous amounts of vegetables and meats. Keep it healthy, and order your meal without MSG; this option exists for all of Sampan's dishes. (801-467- 3663)
If you have a little extra time to spare, consider making a northward trip to Mandarin in Bountiful - just ten miles away from Salt Lake City. If you do, you'll find yourself at one of the top Chinese restaurants in all of the United States. A winner of numerous "Best of State" and "Best of Salt Lake City" awards, as well as national acclaim, Mandarin has been in business since 1978. Offering a menu with over 100 items, this restaurant gives you the chance to experience dishes you would otherwise have to travel to China itself to enjoy. Employing high-caliber chefs hailing from Hong Kong to San Francisco, Mandarin a true culinary powerhouse. (801-298-2406)
Chanon Thai Cafe
If you're a fan of Thai food, you're in luck whilst visiting Salt Lake City. Chanon Thai may seem like just another hole-in-the-wall Asian restaurant; however, within the small confines of this tiny establishment, you'll experience some of the best Thai cuisine in the entire state of Utah. From the moment you walk through the door (and possibly even earlier), distinctive aromas of fresh ingredients and individual spices will foreshadow the delicate and flavorful dishes awaiting inside. Though the entrees may carry the same name as in other Thai restaurants, the excellent sauces and abundance of vegetables and meats in these dishes will outdo any competitor's offerings. (8015321177)
The Himalayan Kitchen opened in downtown Salt Lake City in 2005, and immediately became a widely-known favorite. Serving Nepali and Indian cuisine, this restaurant offers dozens of savory entree choices with or without meat, across the entire spiciness spectrum. Here you can choo se from lamb, chicken, seafood, vegetarian, and tandoori options. After years of consistent success, Himalayan Kitchen relocated; moving just around the corner from its former home, this restaurant now offers a colorful, friendly, and modern environment in which to enjoy its traditionally excellent cuisine. Native Nepali owner, Surya Bastakoti, is an avid para-glider and owner of Mt. Pumori Trekking and Expeditions. (801-328-2077)
No 10Best list of Salt Lake City's Asian restaurants would be complete without Takashi - arguably Salt Lake City's best single eatery of any genre. Located on Market Street - Salt Lake Valley's prime culinary real estate - this Japanese restaurant serves sushi that competes with the best of San Francisco. Whether you're looking for a traditional roll or a deluxe chef's special, you'll find the sushi here to be made with expert elegance and culinary genius. In addition to the sushi, Takashi offers a number of appetizers, entrees, side dishes, and desserts. Don't forget to check out the hot and cold sake list. (8015199595)
About Christine Balaz
Christine Balaz began her unexpected writing career in Salt Lake City with her first book on Wasatch Skiing and Travel in 2006. On the subject of Utah, Christine has written numerous travel books, iPhone apps, and never-ending web content. As a rock climber, outdoors enthusiast and insatiable explorer, Christine has journeyed through nearly every corner of Utah, and has spent aggregate years overseas, from Turkey to Jordan, Sweden to Spain.
Read more about Christine Balaz here.