Evening restaurant review
It only seems like yesterday that we first tried Yamasaki. Due to equal mixes of poor memory and curiosity, I had to quickly google just how long Yamasaki has been open. December 2003, seems to be the precise date. For various reasons we haven’t ventured out to 60th South in quite some time. This weekend we decided to rectify that situation and dine at Yamasaki once more. Four years in business should mean happy diners, the place must be doing something right.
For the uninitiated Yamasaki is the second restaurant from the owners of the ever consistent Kyoto. Yamasaki desribes itself as “fusion” cuisine. I don’t think I am alone in often getting a little worried by such a vague term, much like “bistro”. Stealing elements from the Kyoto menu (see sushi, tempura), Yamasaki augments their menu with a very wide array of warm entrees such as duck, lamb, beef, and scallops to name a few.
In fact, one of my personal problems with Yamasaki is the relatively large menu; the menu comes in three parts. One menu covers a list of standard appetizers, salads, and entrees. A second additional piece of paper lists a variety of specials. A third menu offers a traditional sushi menu to be filled in by the diner. After several visits, I am not sure how often the specials change. I would speculate the three menus are a little daunting for first time visitors. It would be great to see one basic menu. Service could explain any specials as and when available.
While we debated the various options, I ordered a glass of the Francis Coppolla Merlot ($8.50). With the help of some liquid refreshment, we chose our appetizers. Wendi chose the Tempura Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce and Avocado ($8):
The tempura shrimp are stolen straight from the Kyoto menu, which is no bad thing. Large tender shrimp battered in their trademark crisp, clean and light tempura batter. The cocktail sauce itself was a bit of a let down. Given the fusion concept, it would have been fun to see something like a little wasabi added to give the dish a kick. Sadly, the the cocktail sauce was, well, just cocktail sauce.
I chose the Seared Scallops ($10). The menu proclaimed “With three dipping sauces: Lemon-basil aioli, Thai Chilli, Kiwi Jalapeno”:
Whilst a very visually appealing dish, the mix of flavours did not work. The dish was far too busy and complicated. I am not sure if I was meant to eat in a particular order (that was never explained); the heat of the chilli and jalapenos served only to dominate every other flavour. This was a shame as the scallops seamed perfectly cooked.
All entrees at Yamasaki come with a choice of soup or salad. This evening they had a Carrot Soup and Miso Soup available. I chose the latter and Wendi the former:
My miso was perfectly functional. Again I suspect stolen straight from Kyoto. Wendi loved her carrot soup, creamy and rich.
Wendi’s entree was the Fusion Bento Box ($18). If your not aware of bento boxes, these are most typically a rectangular box, with several compartments therein. It’s my understanding bento boxes in Japan are the staple of lunches/takeway/fast food. It seems they are popular in the west as a fancy way to present a variety of food samplings. I think they are pretty cool. They certainly help the procrastination of deciding exactly what to order:
Wendi’s Bento featured: Mushroom Ravioli, Coconut Shrimp, Soba Salad and a spicy Tuna Roll. The ravioli went down a storm, it was the first little compartment cleaned away. The coconut shrimp were executed quite well, if not a little boring. The cold soba salad was passable but again not overly exciting.
My choice was the Duck Breast (pan roasted and topped with a ginger-cranberry reduction $21) :
Another feast for the eyes. Thankfully the waitress asked how I liked my duck and I opted for medium. I personally cannot stand rare duck, it does nothing for me. The duck was exceptionally tasty and tender. The reduction was quite sweet, but did match the duck very well. Wendi mentioned she would like to see more sour Cranberries over the sweetened ones here.
Once or twice throughout the meal the chef popped his head into the dining rooms to say hello and make sure all was well. A good touch I thought. I’d like to see this more in restaurants. I often want to hassle the chef. Not tonight though, a smile and nod of the head was all. Overall an enjoyable meal, certainly needing a few tweaks mind you.
I touched on one of my problems with Yamasaki earlier, that of the menu. Another is the restaurant space itself. An old converted house with tiled floors. I know a lot of people have commented on how they enjoy the space, I can’t agree entirely. At times the tiled floor and layout (being an old house) can make the restaurant feel overly quiet and a little cold.
Case in point. Our latest meal was at 8PM on a Saturday evening. Half way through our meal the restaurant was relatively empty. We were the only people seated in our area of the restaurant. I am sure other people were eating somewhere, I couldn’t see them though. For me that’s a might disconcerting, other people may find this enjoyable.
Service was friendly and prompt; annoyingly that stopped when we came to pay the bill. Everyone seemed to vanish for quite some time. We did wonder if they had assumed the restaurant was actually empty due to the quietness. I was moments from hunting our waitress down; she appeared in the nick of time to take our payment. Hell hath no fury like a diner ready to leave.
Prior to our recent visit, it had been a while since we’ve been to Yamasaki. We plan on not waiting that long again; next time a little earlier in the evening for a livelier dining room.
I’m not aware of a website for Yamasaki, it is located at 6055 S 900 E Salt Lake City, UT 84121
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC and The Utah Review; I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’ve worked extensively with other local publications from Utah Stories through to Salt Lake Magazine and Visit Salt Lake.
I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have covered the Utah dining scene for more than a decade. I’m largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words I don’t understand. I ate all the pies.