Sunday, 25 February 2018

JUST JULIA TRIES: Express lunch at Yatai Izakaya: Review (Aberdeen)

Being able to grab a quick lunch that you can really enjoy within an hour that's not from a takeaway shop, a supermarket, or made at home is pretty rare from my experience. And for someone who potentially has a lot of meetings over lunch, it's important to be able to get in and get out within the hour.

Yatai Izakaya recently re-introduced its express lunchtime menu and has truly nailed the expression getting a 'quick bite to eat'. Turning up to try the express menu out, I was intrigued to see if they truly could get us in and out within the hour. As we arrived we were immediately brought to our seats by one of the staff who handed us our menus and gave her recommendations. We were one of the first diners to be seated, but it didn't take long for the restaurant's downstairs area to fill up.

We ordred our drinks - I just had tap water and Calum ordered a Japanese lemonade which had a subtle bubblegum flavour to it - and then ordered. The restaurant was busy which was great to see, and we had ordered a few dishes to share so we could really get a clear picture of what diners can expect from this menu.

Yatai offers an Omakese style dining in the evening which I absolutely love, but it was really nice to have the chance to try out some different dishes and push myself to try something new during the lunch service.

The food is brought out as it is ready, and this is one thing I love most about Yatai as the food is fresh and made to order.

One of the first dishes which made an appearance was the octopus balls with katsu mayo and bonito flakes. The octopus balls melted in my mouth and were beautifully soft. They weren't chewy  like I had envisioned, so I was pleasantly surprised at how soft and delicious they were. There were big pieces of shredded red pickled ginger and freshly chopped spring onion on top of the dish which added a real pop of colour to it. The sauce it came with had a slighlty barbecue tang to it and went very well with the seafood. The bonita flakes (fish flakes) boasted a real saltiness to them which worked very well with the katsu mayonnaise. They were also slightly chewy which gave the dish yet another  texture to it.
The second dish to arrive was the makizushi set which came with tuna, salmon and katsu prawn pieces. There were nine pieces, three pieces of each type of sushi and Calum and I divvied them up equally. My favourite had to be the katsu prawn due to it being extremely succulent and boasting a beautiful breadcrumb batter which was home to the juicy prawn. The tuna and salmon tasted super fresh and it was the perfect size for sharing. There were big chunks of fish throughout all of the pieces which I was very pleased to see. As expected with sushi, there was ginger (to cleanse the palette) and wasabi on the side. 

Every table in the restaurant has a small teapot of soy sauce and small plates on it to allow everyone the opportuntity to add soy sauce to any of their dishes.
Next up to arrive was the ramen. I've never really ordered ramen at a restaurant before, so I was inrigued to see what all the fuss was about. My friends love the stuff, but I always seem to stick to dishes like sushi instead. We tried out the chargriled chicken peanut satay ramen and it was phenomenal. 

There was so much flavour in the dish and the noodles were perfectly cooked, as was the chicken and the boiled egg. The vegetabes in the dish were delicious and the broth it was in had a beautiful satay peanut taste to it. This was by far one of the best dishes I had tried. As you can imagine, sharing this dish was a little trickier than the others, but we were offered an additional bowl which was really helpful in allowing us both to enjoy the dish at the same time. It was beautifully presented and I was delighted we'd ordered it.

Still looking good for time, food was flying out of the kitchen and diners were getting seen to very quickly. There was a fantastic buzz in the restaurant and I had to remind myself that this was a weekday lunch sitting, rather than a weekend one.
Last but not least was one of my favourite dishes from Yatai, the chicken katsu steamed buns. Having previously tried the pork belly steamed buns, I was sure we were on to a winner with this dish as our final one, and I was 100% correct.

The buns themselves alone are heavenly, add katsu chicken, pickled ginger and cucumber, and a tangy barbecue/soy sauce into the mix and you've got yourself one bloody impressive dish. Both of us fell in love with the bun on our first bite, and I ended up leaving half of it until I was finished with everything else as I wanted to truly savour it until the end. The buns are so soft and completely evaporate after melting on your tongue. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the sauce made the bun lovely and sticky inside, adding a lovely moist finish to it.

I can't lie, the food never disappoints at Yatai and head chef/owner John works tirelessly to create the most incredible dishes.  
The quirky interiors of the Japanese restaurant located on Langstane Place really add to the overall dining experience. With a 'chefs table' in front of the stunning grills where all the grilled food is cooked, diners can watch as John and his team create some of the most incredible food Aberdeen has to offer.

Surrounded by bottles of sake, Japanese prints, flags and lanterns, there's a real feel of Japan and Japanese street food that takes centre stage in Yatai. Having been open for eight years now, the team have created their own take on Japanese cuisine, tying in traditional dishes with their innovative approaches. And as is custom in Japan, this order as you please, and receive food as it is cooked culture is very much to my tastes.
Coming up for the hour on finishing our food and asking the bill, we were in and out within the suggested timescales. I couldn't quite believe that we'd actually managed it without even paying attention, and in no way did I ever feel rushed throughout out dining experience - which also completely baffled me. I thought I would be sitting watching my clock, conscious that I didn't want to take up too much time, but the hour passed and we were on our way home by 1pm.

I can hands down say this is one of the best express lunches within the city, and is great value for money. The high quality food is created by passionate people who love Japanese cuisine and culture and it is worth every penny. It's no surprise why this is one of my favourite restaurants in Aberdeen, and will be for many years to come no doubt.

You can find the express lunch menu here where all the dishes are listed. Customers are also welcome to order from the main menu too, but please be advised that this isn't for the express lunch and this can vary depending on the restaurants availability/bookings.

  For Now...

Just Julia

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