Sunday, August 12, 2007

Yuukai Japanese fusion dining experience

The first time I ever ate raw fish was back in university when a bunch of friends and I met a group of international exchange students from Sweden. They were 7 blond, insightful, stunning-looking, exotic Swedes; 7 guys and 2 girls. What a distracting summer, especially if you were taking a summer class like I was. I think we met up with them almost every weekend to explore the reputable spots and events of Montreal, whether it be the Montreal Jazz Fest, Old Montreal, picnicking on Ste-Helene's island, or going out to dinner. At a casual potluck get-together, they had brought their famous swedish meatballs with potatoes, and pickled Herring . Back then, my stomach wasn't ready for anything raw. Fortunately, I wanted to show our international guests that I was keeping an open mind, so I hesitantly tasted the raw herring. And to my suprise, it wasn't bad at all! In fact, it wasn't slimy as I had anticipated, but sweet and acidic in taste, and soft in texture - it just melted in my mouth. Ever since then, I slowly started discovering the already-established sushi restaurants in Montreal. 'Posh" is the word to describe most of them. The cold contemporary decor with the aloof and pretentious approach of the waiting staff, made one feel uncomfortable to enjoy one's dining experience. But I must admit, their sushis were delectable at all times.

Unlike other sushi places, Yuukai is one of the first BYOW (Bring Your Own Wine) sushi restaurants that are out there. The menu consists mainly of japanese fusion cuisine, which means, sushi/sashimi, as well as, modern Asian dishes. The family owned restaurant opened in the Fall of 2004 and has gradually become a great success story ever since. Rave reviews were written about the new zen-like place by the local Montreal newspapers such as the Voir and the Hour. Important qualities to keep in mind; their Sushi is one of the freshest in the city, the owner and waiting staff are genuinely warm and friendly, and you will not be paying an arm and a leg for your meal. Nowadays, reservations have to be made in advance especially on weekends.

A great way to start your dining experience at Yuukai's is to nibble on the small savory sushi-pizza appetizers, which are made of a rice-tempura based crust, smoked salmon and fish eggs. They are so popular that guests ask for take-outs before leaving the restaurant, to eat some more at home!

Another appetizer that would be appreciated mostly by Asians or tofu fans is the Agadashi Tofu with Bonito flakes. It's basically deep-fried tofu covered with shavings of dried smoked tuna, served in a soya-sauce based broth. What's amazing is the heat generated by the tofu causes the thin Bonito flakes to slowly move, creating an illusion that the flakes are alive! This is intriguing to some who see Bonito flakes for the first time!

There are two menus; Sushi à la Carte and a Modern Asian Cuisine menu. The sushi à la carte has a wide variety of sushi and sashimi which makes it difficult to not want to try almost everything! As I commented earlier, their sushis are remarkably fresh, which is THE criteria of a top sushi restaurants. That evening, we had a soft-shelled crab, avocado, tempura sushi roll and spicy-tuna sushi roll. The latter was rolled in a green rice paper, which was very appealing to the eye and softer on the taste buds, as opposed to the traditional seaweed sheets.

What's interesting about Japanese fusion cuisine is that you are not limited to sushi only. At times, when we go out as a group of friends, not everyone is in the mood to eat the same thing, and that's the beauty of Yuukai. If sushi is not for everyone, others can order a grade A Rib Eye Steak grilled and seasoned to perfection and served with the Chef's own Wasabi sauce. Without exaggeration, this steak is the best in town. It's so tender and juicy, even Italians and French Canadians will choose Yuukai over well-renowned Montreal steakhouses to devour this steak.

Finally, there is nothing better than to end your meal with a light and creamy Matcha Green Tea ice cream, to clean your palate and satisfy your sweet tooth. So refreshing.


A gratifying experience worth sharing with family and friends.


Anonymous said...

such a bias review....:( are the owners your friends?

QlinArt said...

true, about being biased. I review for fun and not professionally, and will only review when I love something. I tell you, it's a very good place. Hope you like it as much as I do.