I recently had the chance to try Chef Cody Auger’s Japanese-centric food twice in one month. The first time I was in Portland at the beginning of the month, I got to swing by Takibi, an award-winning restaurant developed by Snow Peak, a Japanese outdoor lifestyle brand, with Chef Auger as executive chef. The second time, I was at the Sundance Mountain Resort Owl Bar at a pop-up that showed up as a delicious coastal/mountain mix tape. In addition to the menu takeover, Takibi Bar Manager Alexandra Anderson joined in the fun and crafted cocktail menu to feature drinks incorporating ingredients from both Utah and Japan.
While in Portland, I got to talk with Chef Auger (also the owner of Nimblefish) about all the work that went into a collaboration with Sundance. “I went a couple of months back and met the crew and the team and the people behind what makes Sundance amazing,” he said. “And it was pretty inspiring to see how that business was working and hear the history of the business because, as far as I was concerned, it was just a film festival. I had no idea it was so much more.”
After meeting with the Sundance team, the Takibi culinary and bar team started to figure out how to translate their modern coastal Japanese food to incorporate Utah ingredients. “We tried to pull in seasonal ingredients from Utah and apply traditional Japanese cooking methods,” Chef said. “We worked to find local proteins and produce that we can use for that meal and what types of things we would have to have shipped in from Portland to impart some of the Northwest to the Utah culinary palate. We wanted a good mix of both. An Eastern meets Western idea.”
So let’s get to the food. I was lucky enough to dine in both places. Chef Cody’s signature dish at Takibi is a Hoba Misoyaki. In his words, he described it as “a pretty traditional dish. The origin is based in the Osaka area. We roast a magnolia leaf in the oven with hazelnut miso tossed with locally grown mushrooms. It gets cooked in the oven at really high heat. The miso caramelizes as the mushrooms cook. And it’s served with a grilled rice bowl so that you can have something to accompany the strong flavors.” Tasting this dish back to back at both locations, the variation in the mushroom varietals and cooking techniques were evident. In Portland, the dish was more crispy and caramelized at the bottom of the bowl, while the mushrooms were earthier in Utah. But versions were delicious, but the scales tipped in favor of the original. I think mainly because of the oven’s capabilities. But honestly, the Utah version with the scallop was still delicious. And very unique.
The winning dish at the Owl Bar was the poutine. Made with crispy fries and Utah-local cheese curds, it was doused in Japanese curry instead of gravy. For those that don’t know, Japanese curry is known for its thick, umami flavor and is made with a type of roux as a base thickener. I keep Japanese curry sauce blocks at home for emergency dinners when I don’t want to cook anything. But now, you can bet I’ll toss it over fries at home. In addition, the fries were tossed with beni shōga, a type of Japanese pickle made from very thin strips of ginger. It kept things tasting fresh and not overly rich and fried. The plate arrived first and ended up clean. Even when eating the whole messy thing with chopsticks.
Another favorite from both locations was the Black Cod, charcoal grilled with chickpea miso. Black Cod is my universal favorite fish. If you aren’t familiar, it is a whitefish, but rich and fatty like salmon. It soaks up flavor, can be marinated, and tastes delicious with some char to it. And it is a must-order in both locations.
As for cocktails, my favorite at the Owl Bar was the Honey Do List – which combined Honeydew melon and Wahaka Espadin Mezcal in a light and summery cocktail. The Nori Green Tea Punch is another signature summery drink.
The best thing about the Owl Bar in summer is the outdoor seating by the creek. It was a little chilly the day I was up there (and I’m a cold wimp), but next time I’ll bundle a little more and enjoy the patio. Snow Peak had some of its furniture outside, and I heard whispers that further collaborations are in the works between Sundance, Snow Peak, and Takibi.
If you go:
Takibi Pop Up open through June 25th at the Owl Bar
Sundance Mountain Resort Owl Bar
8841 N Alpine Lp Rd, Sundance, UT 84604
PH: (801) 223-4222
Takibi (Inside Snow Peak)
2275 NW Flanders St, Portland, OR 97210
PH: (971) 888-5713
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