Sometimes a restaurant knocks me off my high horse, the one where I think I know more than I actually do. A trip to Yo! Sushi is the perfect example.
When I first saw the restaurant’s conveyor belt system of delivering sushi direct to the table, it reminded me of those ‘all you can eat” sushi joints where I tend to question the quality of the food. Fortunately Mart and I put that assumption to the test with a recent visit to this dynamic restaurant in the Town Center Mall.
Conveyor belt sushi isn’t a new concept. There are over 76 Yo! Sushi restaurants scattered around the globe, with over 60 in the UK alone. The store in Sarasota is the first Yo! Sushi in the entire United States, with several other locations opening after it.
No matter if you sit at the sushi bar or at one of the booths, Yo!’s conveyor belt brings sushi, salads and bottled soda by your seat. You simply pick up whatever interests you. There are seven different color coded plates at Yo! Sushi, ranging from $3.00 for the green edged plate to $7.00 for the golden yellow rimmed plate. Simply stack up your empty plates as you finish them and your server will know how much to charge you as well as helps you keep track of your bill! It’s easy to get caught up with “Oooh, what’s that!” Go on a Monday night, and everything on the conveyor belt will be a blue dish and priced at $3.50 each!
The majority of the dishes sent out on the conveyor belt are classics most every sushi lover has tried; California Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, Salmon Roll, Tuna Sushi and Ebi (shrimp) Sushi. Additionally, the number of dishes rotating on the conveyor are in direct proportion to the number of guests in the restaurant. The more guests, the more the food coming your way. However, with over 114 items on the menu, some of the more unique dishes never hit the conveyor belt, like Yo!s new Ramen soups, or an Ice Cream Mochi dessert. To try something you don’t see on the conveyor belt, just ask your server and they’ll bring an order to your table.
Two items that came our way via a server were traditional Japanese street foods: Chicken Wings and Potato Salad. That’s right . . . deep fried chicken wings in a sushi bar! Yo!’s wings are naked, meaning no breading, marinated in soy, saki, garlic and vinegar, then deep fried to a crispy golden brown. The crunch is just right and the meat hot, juicy and full of flavor.
Japanese Potato Salad features a twist on your typical American and German potato salads . . . pickled vegetables and karashi mustard/mayo dressing. Imagine the burst of flavor this potato salad gets from the pickled onions, cucumber, and sweet potato. Best of all, in my humble opinion, is the amount of dressing – not too dry, not too wet. And the sesame seeds add a bit of nutty goodness.
Several of the dishes we sampled at Yo! Sushi were a surprise to us. For me it was the Nanbanzuke, cooked Yellowtail tuna in a sweet and sour sauce with pickles nestled on a bed of rice. The menu calls this southern barbarian food. I call it amazing! The rice was surrounded by the sweet and sour sauce made up of soy sauce, sugar and rice wine vinegar. I was honestly tempted to drink that sauce out of the bowl, it was that unique and delicious. The tuna had a nice crispy crust along the edges where a sliver of skin remained, and the red peppers and onions offered a crunchy texture that completed the dish. I will 100% order this dish time and time again!
Mart’s favorite dish of the day was the Chazuke, found under the Honmono section of the menu, which represents authentic home cooking. Chazuke starts with a mound of rice, sesame paste, nori, yuzu koshu, fragrant shiso leaf and umami broth topped with cooked salmon and Yellowtail tuna. Chef Martin suggested we mixed all the components into the bowl before we tasted the dish, as this is his personal favorite as well. Great suggestion! As many of you know umami represents the flavor known as savory, a feeling of smoothness that blends well with other tastes to expand and round out flavors. This dish had all that going for it! Yuzu koshu is a Japanese spice made from fresh chiles, yuzu cirtrus fruit and salt, offering a flavor bomb in everything it touches. This small bowl had such depth of flavor, it’s no wonder Mart went wild for it.
All these dishes and we’ve yet to tell you about the sushi! Since we’d heard Yo! Sushi was featuring a few new items on their menu, we had to try two of them. The Ginza Roll, with fresh Norwegian salmon, cream cheese and cucumber rolled with arenkha caviar and drizzled with a teriyaki, sriracha and mayo dressing and a sprinkle of crispy shallots. I love sushi that gives both a bite of sweet and spicy in the same bite, so the Ginza Roll was a pleasure to me. No soy or ponzu sauce was needed! This roll stood on it’s own.
Our second roll was the Fish No Chip Roll. New to the menu, this roll was inspired by the British love for fish and chips. The first few attempts to capture the fish and chips flavor attempted to include French fries, which were later dropped because they went limp. Hence the Fish No Chip Roll was born, with tempura Yellowtail, onion, cucumber and wasabi sauce wrapped in nori (seaweed) and rice then rolled in chives. This was the only dish that I felt needed a little soy sauce and wasabi, as the tempura itself can come off kind of dry. Then again, I am pretty liberal with tartar sauce and vinegar when I eat British fish and chips, so maybe that’s why I wanted the added flavor.
Even though we were quite full, we ordered a bowl of Sesame Garlic Ramen to take home with us. I caught a whiff of the soup as we entered earlier, and knew that if I had a bowl of it, I wouldn’t be trying anything else. At $4 a bowl, I wasn’t going to leave Yo! Sushi without some for lunch the next day!
While waiting for our soup to be boxed up, Chef convinced us to try the Chocolate Mochi dessert. The exterior is a sticky rice ball mixed with cocoa, the interior a rich chocolate and coconut ganache. At first I was taken aback by the Mochi’s exterior which was made from rice flour with a soft, doughy texture, but once I got into that cool, creamy center I was won over. It’s interesting how easy it would have been to avoid trying something so new to me. I’m glad Chef suggested we try the Mochi. It’s unlike anything I could describe . . . Imagine a truffle with a soft, chewy exterior.
So, as I said in the beginning of this blog, sometimes a restaurant knocks me off my high horse. I came into Yo! Sushi thinking I knew what to expect, and was completely surprised. In my case it turns out you don’t know sushi until you Yo! Sushi.
But that’s just me. . .