Kyoto (not the one in Japan)

In time I hope to start posting restaurant reviews that showcase Salt Lake’s surprisingly eclectic culinary scene, but to start with I wanted to give a little background about the place I have been training and the people I have been working with.

Kyoto Japanese Restaurant, opened by Sam and Yoshiko Tada in 1984, is a mainstay of the Sugarhouse area, some patrons (myself included) have been frequenting it for over twenty years. I am fortunate that the house I grew up in is only a block away.

Originally specializing in Japanese comfort foods such as Ebi Tempura, Agedashi Tofu, and Sukiyaki, they added a sushi bar in 2001. The restaurant’s mission is to bring a warm, traditional atmosphere with top-notch cuisine. Servers wear kimonos during evenings service, lilting Japanese music sets the mood, and patrons even have the option of being seated in tatami rooms during their meal.

Five years ago the Tada’s sold Kyoto to the LaSalle Restaurant Group, who also own popular eateries Current, Niche Café, Oasis Café, Trio, and Stanza Wine Bar. Two years ago the owner, Joel LaSalle, reeled in one of the biggest sushi titans in the state as head chef, Peggi Ince-Whiting.

Born to a Mormon family in Utah, she began her culinary career working in the restaurant of her best high school friend Marlene’s parents, Hibachi House. After high school she did her year and a half long mission in Japan, learning to speak the language fluently. After coming back to Utah and attempting a communications degree, she realized where her passion truly lay and ended up  training under master Inou at Hama Sushi in Tokyo. 

When I say that Peggi is revolutionary, it is not hyperbolic. She is the first traditionally trained female sushi chef in all of Utah, and one of only a handful of women who have ever worked behind a sushi bar in Japan.

Do any of you know the long-standing Salt Lake sushi restaurant Ichiban? She started it when she was only 27. Originally opened on Main Street in Park City, then moved to its current location in downtown SLC. Peggi sold in 2005, taking a decade off to raise her kids while learning still more about her craft by becoming a fishmonger and developing sushi grade fish programs for her company. In 2015 she was lured back into the game.

To make things even more interesting, Marlene ended up being Peggi’s first apprentice, and now works as her sous chef at Kyoto. It is quite unique that the oldest and most traditional sushi restaurant in town is led by a powerhouse female team.