Turning Japanese

The menu could use some fine-tuning. A starter of smoked Pacific oysters on cucumber discs with horseradish creme fra”che was unaccountably bland, and the oysters themselves were somewhat slimy. Ginger-sesame grilled sea scallops were brought to the table almost raw and cold, resulting in a bitter aftertaste. The billed green papaya salad with chilis and lime on which the scallops were served was actually made with ripe papaya, which didn't have the same crisp punch as the green variety.

The servers also could use some fine-tuning. When the waiter brought us an amuse-bouche (a gratis preappetizer) from the sushi bar, he wasn't able to tell us what it was. After returning to the sushi bar for consultation, he eventually announced, "It's white fish."

"How is it prepared?"
Blank stare. (Battered and fried, then served cold in a light soy sauce, we learned.) He didn't know how to describe the dishes either, and while he was pleasant enough, he wasn't savvy as to what was on the 86- list: the aforementioned yellowtail jaw and marinated raw beef. (The manager was extremely helpful, however, directing the staff to fill our water glasses and even serving some of our dishes himself.) After striking out with the yellowtail and raw beef, we settled on stone crab claws with wasabi-mustard sauce. These reminders that stone crab season has begun were a special starter, virtually guaranteed to be on hand. Dense meat from the two large claws came away easily from the shell, while the mayo-based wasabi sauce cleared my sinuses.

If An's other restaurants, where the fare may be typical but undeniably fresh and good, are a reliable measure, then Yasumoto will ultimately succeed. It took years for local fusion eateries, as well as Chinese and Thai places, to add sushi bars in an attempt (failed or otherwise) to broaden their scope and widen their appeal. No reason why it shouldn't work the other way around.

Yasumoto Japanese Bistro
9700 Collins Ave (in Bal Harbour Shops), Bal Harbour; 305-861-5475. Lunch and dinner daily from 11:30 a.m. till 10:30 p.m.

Salmon skin roll $5.25
Duck potstickers $7.95
African snook $18.95
Mori awase $21.95
Veal chop $28.

95

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