Full disclosure, the owners of Yoroshiku are Ann’s downstairs neighbors. But Ann gets major street cred for being a 4th generation Japanese American whose been to Japan several times; Plus, her daughter is in the Japanese language program at John Stanford International, and she’s eaten A LOT of Japanese food. “I’m also a little food-obsessed,” she proclaims, but “the food is a refreshing welcome to the scene and really speaks for itself.”
So without further ado, I’ll let Ann tell you the rest in her words. Take it away, Ann:
First, the name – it’s a play on words: 4649, if said in Japanese, is yo(n) ro(ku) shi(chi) ku . . . Yoroshiku is a commonly said as part of a meeting – “dozo yoroshiku” or “yoroshiku onegaishimasu” meaning roughly, nice to meet you or please be kind to me. . . it also means “kindly” or “acceptably”. OK – it’s too hard to explain what it means. I think this definition is kind of fun (from Urban Dictionary):
A Japanese phrase, meaning literally “kindly”, “acceptably”, but in practice meaning just about anything the speaker wants to say but doesn’t have the guts or doesn’t feel the need to say. Understanding this word is key to understanding the Japanese culture.
“Sachiyo-san ni yoroshiku.” “Say ‘yoroshiku’ to Sachiyo for me.” = “I kinda like Sachiyo but I’m afraid to ask her out, so please tell her I said this so she can wonder if maybe I like her and then hopefully communicate via subtle body language at some point that she might like me too, or not.”
Anyway, there’s no sign in front of the restaurant right now – the guy who was supposed to do their sign left to go help out with Hurricane Sandy and hasn’t gotten back yet! But they opened their doors anyway last Monday. A tough week to open, given the holiday, but it was actually quite full when we were there on Saturday night, despite the fact that they didn’t even have a sign up.
So the food! Kobayashi-san and his crew are from Sapporo, Hokkaido – the northernmost island of Japan – so their cuisine reflects that region, and it’s such a welcome break from the same-old, same-old California rolls with too much mayonnaise that we we have far too much of around here (imho). For the most part, you could think of the menu offerings as a kind of Japanese tapas – the mainstay are the yakitori – little pieces of meat or veggies on sticks. WOW – they are tasty! We had the pork belly from Oregon, the asparagus with bacon – and the yakitori plate, which is a great selection of delicious chicken pieces with a chef’s choice of vegetable skewers. The regular tare sauce was super tasty, but next time I’m gonna try one of the other sauces – they also have salt, a sweet chili mayo, spicy sauce, and nuts miso. Anyway, you could do a whole leisurely meal with these and some sake, beer, or wine (lots of good drink options – wines from OR and WA, couple different sake options, yuzu & plum wine for some fruitier options).
But the thing is, there’s some other fabulous stuff on the menu that you wouldn’t want to miss. For one, the okonomiyaki! I don’t know of any other places in town that serve okonomiyaki – I’ve heard it described as a savory pancake or Japanese pizza, but I think both are woefully inadequate descriptions of this food that I first came to know and love in the southern regions of Japan. You could order one of these to share along with other “tapas” or just eat that as your main dish – the Modern one on the specials menu has yakisoba noodles in the middle (like the version I know from Osaka, I think) – plus pork and the batter and cabbage and the signature sauce (sometimes there’s also shrimp or other seafood – we’re omnivores, so you might want to ask if you’re not). You can cut it up with the cute little spatulas that people use in Japan to make them on the hot griddles.
We were a decent size group – so I can also speak to the fish/veggie nabe, which is quintessential cold-weather food – very subtly flavored broth with fish and veggies. Very basic but tasty and so perfect for winter!
Last but not least – ramen! I’m super picky about ramen – basically only know of 1 place in CA and 1 place in Hawaii where I think the ramen passes muster and comes close to what I had in Japan. Their ramen rocked! It’s got a pork sauce that’s about as far from Top Ramen as it’s possible to get – our kids (ages 6 and 2) loved it so much, we had to order a second big bowl for them (admittedly, we were also stealing bites under the guise of “cooling it off” for them).
Anyway, they also have other small plates that sound enticing – like home-made pickled vegetables, cheese age-yaki (grilled deep fried tofu), deep fried chicken Hokkaido style, salads, grilled rice balls – and larger plates that are equally enticing (e.g., kushiage a la carte – deep fried skewers – “Zin Ggis Khan” (Hokkaido-style BBQ lamb), grilled salmon with miso, and tofu steak.Oh yeah – and dessert was amazing! A beautiful matcha green tea cheesecake with ice cream (and I’m not really a cheese-cake fan) and fried sweet potatoes w/ice cream (yeah baby, I like that!).
Yep, we kinda pigged out, but it was so good and such a refreshing break from the Japanese food in the area! You could just opt for yakitori on rice if you really wanted to play it safe, too – I’m sure it’d be good, but why?