"What's your favorite restaurant?" That question, recently batted around at our weekly editorial meeting, got us all thinking. If we had to choose one favorite at gunpoint, what would that restaurant be, and why? Each week, a different Short Order blogger will celebrate his or her favorite eatery -- be they celebrity-chef-driven or a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall. Why? Because we're tired of having to explain our favorite dining spots at cocktail parties and weddings.
My love affair with Yakko-San is not as old as time. I'd like to say it is, but it isn't. In fact, I was introduced to the Yak (as I've lovingly dubbed it) about 2 years ago. Of course, this was back when the Yak was at its old location -- the hole in the wall on West Dixie Highway. That was the spot where cars piled on top of each other in the eight-space parking lot, where the wait was usually three parties deep no matter what time you went, and where the food was so good, you didn't care how long it took to get a table, or a space at the bar.
That's how Yakko-San and I first met.
Nowadays, there's ample parking ... well, kind of. It's next to an Old Navy and TJ Maxx so you might have to claim your spot a little forcefully.
The Yak's new location was foreign at first. It was spacious and "nice." Completely different from the cozy spot from before. Now you walk through the doors to a hostess counter with a huge fountain sculpture behind it, instead of just a hostess and a rickety podium with a bowl of mints and toothpicks.
Change is good, though, and completely inevitable.
The menu hasn't changed much -- and that's what counts. These days, I'll often go for lunch, or dinner, or even a late night snack on my own. That sounds awfully pathetic, but that's the kind of place the Yak has become for me -- a safe haven where I know I can always count on a good meal.
Japanese fare may seem difficult to consider as comfort food (especially if you're not Japanese). I can tell you right now, that despite my appearance, I have zero Asian ancestry that I'm aware of, but still, a meal at Yakko-San puts me more at ease than my mom's mole (but don't tell her that).
My go-to dishes are first and foremost, a crispy pork and onion salad with ponzu sauce ($7.50). It's chock-full of crispy pork pieces, raw radishes, alfalfa sprouts, cherry tomatoes, a mountain of sliced onion, and ponzu sauce. If you're lucky, sometimes they'll make it with spicy chile oil, but that all depends on who makes it for you that day. Then I'll order crispy bok choy ($6.50). The bok choy is flash fried so it's as crispy as a potato chip. It comes with a little cup of soy-garlic sauce, with sliced garlic floating around the cup. I don't really know how else to explain the compilation of flavors. A party? Yes, that'll do. It's a party of flavors. Finally, I'll order beef tataki ($6.50). I have yet to be disappointed with anything that I've tried on the Yak's extensive menu, but the beef tataki gets me every time. I always feel like one day they're gonna screw up. One day it's gonna be bad. One day it's not going to do for me what it did on my very first visit. But, no. It's on point, 100 percent, every time. The garlic ponzu jello that they delicately place on top of each tataki slice is heavenly -- tangy and salty.
You can imagine the looks friends give me when they come along for a Yak adventure, because, yes, I can pack all of that food down in one sitting - and I'll gladly do it anytime, any day.
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The owners are there frequently -- in fact, we'd say they're there about 95 percent of the time. The same waiters have been there since we first started going (and more than likely long before then). There's an unspoken harmony to the place. Even though it's new, and spacious, and "nice," it still manages to bring me back to that cozy feeling I had during my first visit two years ago.
It's my second home, and everyone who knows me knows that it's always my first choice when choosing somewhere to eat. It's my favorite restaurant in Miami.
Follow Alex on Twitter @ARodWrites.