The man behind Mr. Rice: Chinatown’s new fusion restaurantOct 01, 2022 08:44PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez
By Jesse M. Gonzalez | [email protected]
Nestled into South Salt Lake’s Chinatown Supermarket, 3390 State St., is a new restaurant that opened in September: an Asian fusion eatery called Mr. Rice. With a “now open” sign and a tall man waiting behind the counter for more customers to arrive, the establishment has an atmospheric sense of eagerness, of a kitchen, after hard work and dedication, now waiting to leave its mark in the restaurant business.
Mr. Rice has a gentle pitch that most restaurants are without, treating the food more like a gift than a commodity, as the prices are fair, and the meals are presented as something that could be bestowed to a close friend.
The man behind the counter, Jaehan Park, had the intention of opening a business with just that kind of approach. Born in Korea, where he had dreams of living and becoming a success in the United States, Park has lived in Utah for 20 years, thriving in the meat industry, selling beef and pork both domestically and internationally while also laying out the blueprint to run his own business.
Park’s first business, Mr. Shabu, opened up three years ago and is continuing to be a success as a popular restaurant at The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City[LL2] . With the accomplishment of Mr. Shabu, Park decided to invest in another similar project: Mr. Rice, expanding his knack for producing high quality edible nourishment.
“I wanted to give a gift to the customers,” Park said. “We have a lot of foot traffic in here (Chinatown Supermarket) and I wanted to do a restaurant in which I can put more preparation in the food and packaging supplies to delight the customer.”
Still invested in the meat industry, Park sells beef and pork to Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. He began the restaurant business to build more rapport with the people of Utah. “I wanted to have customers pamper themselves, treat themselves at the end of the day, like going to the grocery store to pick up food, and feel good about it,” Park said.
With Mr. Rice being Park’s second restaurant, he knew more what to expect to properly run a successful eatery and to prepare for the unexpected pitfalls that could arise from outside factors.
“With Mr. Shabu, right after we opened, we had the Covid situation and so we were struggling with that situation so much but we survived. We had a lot of help from the government, from the state, and also the customers,” Park said.
After the pandemic, Park returned with more drive and focus to get his restaurant business endeavors to come alive and flourish.
“At first, I started this business for my own interest. The restaurant business is really tough physically and emotionally and we’re not well treated in the industry. I want to produce more opportunity for my teammates and we want to spread more happiness with food for other people,” Park said. “We’re learning.”
So far, Mr. Rice gets roughly 70 to 80 customers a day while Mr. Shabu gets approximately 500 customers a day.
“We’re not just only selling food, we’re selling time and we’re selling memories,” Park said.
Park views the small things as a source of satisfaction in his job.
As customers leave Mr. Rice with bags in their hands, Park said, “Customers smile, and I feel good.”