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This one of a kind Chinese restaurant in West Valley City is a must 

Matchstick Bar & Grill - interior and seating

I’m not one to bandy around the phrase hidden gem all that often, but based on the convergence of meager coverage, apparent awareness, and excellent cooking – I’d say Matchstick Bar & Grill in West Valley City absolutely fits the bill.

The restaurant opened a few months back in the space (2000 W 3500th S, West Valley City) once home to names like El Pariente, Noodle & Chopsticks, and Pho Green Papaya. OMO Korean BBQ was the most recent restaurant to star here, and the plush upholstery and tabletop cooking equipment remain holdovers. While the table-mounted induction plates are still in place, the preponderance of the cooking here comes from a swift kitchen.

As far as I’m aware Matchstick [matchstickutah.com] is a one-of-a-kind in the valley, the only place you can enjoy shaokao – Chinese BBQ. At least to the massive extent on offer here. There are nearly two dozen choices on the menu, mostly priced at $3.99-$5.99 for a trio or quartet of sticks.

With the assortment on offer, an entire meal can happily be enjoyed poking and twirling your way through this section of the menu alone. It’s also where we begin our first meal. The pork belly is wonderful stuff, with the lamb a close second. That said, I go two rounds with the Chinese sausage, small thumbs of hoisin sweetness. A third order is considered. The only mild miss we experience is the beef skewers. The below of the tough texture is softened by the fact they’re also a 49 cent skewer special.

Skewers come coated in a slightly embering spice blend, Korean gochugaru I think I recall our server counseling. Speaking of which our server is keen to gauge our flame tolerance, no doubt a little apprehensive of Utah’s notoriously mild palate. Admittedly there’s some tingle, but in truth, it’s more warm bath than scalding, “did you really just flush”, shower experience. Only the most bashful of tastebuds will struggle. More heat comes to the table with chili oil if you want to ramp things up a little. We did.  Top tip: spice, oil, spice in that order for the perfect lacquering of capsaicin.

If the volume of choices seems intimidating, don’t worry, the ordering process promotes a lingering dining session. On seating your server will present you with a paper menu and pencil. Simply circle off a few picks and they’ll whisk it back to the kitchen. Dishes appear in next to no time. Rinse and repeat as required.

A bowl of frazzled salt and pepper chicken skins are a must. The poultry chicharrones offer less plump pomp than their porky peers but are a marvelous textural contrast. The crisped squares yield an ever-so-fatty and juicy interior. The skins are best eaten briskly before cooling dulls their luster. Before you dive in chopsticks first, a spritz of lime juice from an accompanying wedge works wonders.

Matchstick Bar & Grill - pork belly kebab
Matchstick Bar & Grill – pork belly kebab
Matchstick Bar & Grill - tin foil tofu
Matchstick Bar & Grill – tin foil tofu
Matchstick Bar & Grill - beef and sausage kebab
Matchstick Bar & Grill – beef and sausage kebab
Matchstick Bar & Grill - booths and wall art
Matchstick Bar & Grill – booths and wall art
Matchstick Bar & Grill - Chinese chives dumplings
Matchstick Bar & Grill – Chinese chives dumplings
Matchstick Bar & Grill - stir fried lettuce
Matchstick Bar & Grill – stir fried lettuce
Matchstick Bar & Grill - salt and pepper chicken skins
Matchstick Bar & Grill – salt and pepper chicken skins
Matchstick Bar & Grill - wing, sausage and pork belly kebab
Matchstick Bar & Grill – wing, sausage and pork belly kebab
Matchstick Bar & Grill - grilled fish (Gastronomic SLC)
Matchstick Bar & Grill – grilled fish (Gastronomic SLC)
Matchstick Bar & Grill - exterior (Gastronomic SLC)
Matchstick Bar & Grill – exterior (Gastronomic SLC)

Other standout dishes include the tin foil tofu – another eminently affordable dish at the ten-dollar mark, arriving at the table exactly as described. A foil tub packs a wriggling and jiggling morass of tofu and glass noodles. You might elect to order up a side bowl of rice at this point, maximizing your enjoyment of the crimson-hued chili sauce.

A final showstopper we enjoy is the grilled fish, lurking covertly without fanfare under the BBQ section of the menu. We’re alerted to its presence by our excellent server Ricky. Priced at the $30 mark it’s one of the most expensive items on offer. What the menu fails to express is the mammoth size of the serving – a whopping metal bowl arrives ceremoniously atop a wooden board. Inside a whole grilled fish lies beached on an island of ingredients. Below the white fish, you’ll find sliced potatoes, mushrooms, an assortment of veg, and another tangle of glass noodles.

As we chat with Ricky over the course of our inaugural multi-round meal I find out the restaurant is apparently the work of the folks behind the East side’s Sasa Kitchen, which I also love. Fans of the Sichuan-spiked Sasa will no doubt immediately prick their ears up at this one. It too is one of the finer options for Chinese and Taiwanese dishes in Utah.

With the expeditious service and engaging menu there’s a convivial tone about the restaurant, perfect for parties and groups. A 32oz pitcher of Sapporo on the menu underscores the point well, priced at just $10. I’ve had 12oz cans of beer in the city priced more than that. Cocktails equally struggle to pass the same price point. If there’s a better place to welcome in 2024 and commiserate with friends over resolutions already punted to ’25 – I can’t think of anywhere better. Life’s just better with a whirling skewer in hand.

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