I recently celebrated my birthday last October 5 and prior to the usual month-long celebration of it all, I kickstarted it by inviting my dearest mum on a fancy dinner out about town. The Pink Tarha ladies are loyal advocates of Japanese food (and food in general, LOL) and so is mother dearest, so I have been hearing about this new Japanese restaurant that had opened in Centria for quite some time already and I decided we give it a try. Word has it that it is quite expensive but definitely “faultless” as one of our friends duly noted. The name is YOKARI and it is simply everything that a classy Japanese restaurant would be. Understated but completely smells of exclusivity. Minimalist but pays full attention to details. Quiet in surroundings but the food will speak loudly for itself. So will your bill. But let’s not focus on that, for now.
Before heading to Yokari, I first made a reservation online thru their website: http://www.yokari.com. It was pretty easy to do and I was able to secure a 6:45PM reservation using only my mobile connection. Just go to the ‘Reservations’ tab and enter the details from there. They sent me a verification email afterwards along with an SMS reminder. I am not sure how often they accept walk-ins but just to be on the safe side, better secure a reservation first — as most fancy restaurants do implement this procedure. Though in Yokari this is only applicable for the Family section and even though it does say ‘Family’ section, the restaurant does not allow children under 10 years old to enter the restaurant. So do have that in mind if you plan on bringing the kids.
As we arrived, we were welcomed by two, clean-looking gentlemen who were clearly kabayans but perhaps had 1/16 Japanese blood in them because they could easily be mistaken as Japanese. We were ushered into our table and as I observed the ambiance, it was a spacious place with very dim-lighting and basic couches/chairs and tables. It was all very minimalist and for a loud person like me, I was seeking a burst of color here and there but then again, I reminded myself I am not at TGIFridays. From the outside looking in, it can feel a little strict – for the lack of a better term – as most upscale places usually are. But once my mom and I were seated and started talking, I could feel the ease and privacy that the vibe actually projected when seated with your companions.
Eventually, we learned that everything in Yokari was themed as minimalist. From the menu to the presentation of the food to the overall decor of the restaurant. The waiters were more than happy to elaborate the selections for us and here are what we ordered. [Note: Pardon me, it’s been a while since this dinner so the price range for the food are already a bit vague from my memory. I would give a ballpark figure, if I could]
For our beverages, we were treated to open of their Specials, the Asian Passion, which was similar to a Mojito in thought but without the alcohol of course. It was delicious and fresh. Mom had the Melon Freeze and enjoyed its sweetness. Most of their beverages go from 30+ SAR onwards. I found my choice for the Asian Passion quite fair for the price since I know that blueberries and raspberries are quite expensive here.
For our starters, we kept it in the veggie selection with the Yasai Salad which had a generous amount of endamame beans, fresh greens and seaweed. The dressing for this had a sesame oil base and a great mix of salty and sweet. We finished off every single thing in this plate. As for the Grilled Nasumiso, which is eggplant with miso grilled — it was very flavorful and tender. I was just not sure it was the right pair for the rest of the items we ordered for that night.
For their sushi and sashimis, we found them to be exquisite along with a presentation that was nothing short of intricate. We learned that their head chef is an authentic Japanese person and we were at awe at the quality of his work. I haven’t had scallops this good for the longest time. But I wished there were a dozen of them more. If only I could afford it. Haha!
The Makimono Rolls that we ordered was a sure winner in my book! Value for money and quality considered, you wouldn’t go wrong if you went for the Makis. I don’t think they reached over 70SR per order. The Maguro Karashi was like a rock n’ roll of flavors — definitely my kind of maki. It was spicy and tangy in all the right places. The Hishigani was also a refreshing choice since this might be the first time in my entire history of eating Japanese food that I encountered a maki that didn’t house a generic crabstick that you could find in the frozen section of the supermarket. Inside it was REAL crab meat and it was awesome. ‘Nuff said. If there is anything I will highly recommend in this place, it would be their makis (as far as I am informed at this point).
And in true Filipino tradition of having “long-life” during our birthdays, I had to order some version of our pansit (noodles). In this case, it was the Yakisoba. Of course coming from our culture, we can easily claim that we can cook this one at home. But what made it different for me and was quite obvious upon tasting was the freshly-made noodles that was used for this dish. Oh and the waiters will scoop you a serving in your individual bowls for this.
Now unto that dinner bill. Yes, it was pricey. But it was also my birthday. So I was willing to shell out that much for a special event. Are there other places that I could’ve have splurged my money on and had a bigger, fuller meal? Probably yes. But as far as Yokari is concerned, it’s not about the grand bedazzle of a plate or pizzazz of an ambiance. Yokari is about precision to small details that makes the difference. The perfect placing of the caviar over the Sake. The intricate slicing of the ingredients. The distinction and appropriation of flavors. It appears to me that Yokari prides themselves in this level of culinary discipline, so to speak. And that’s what you pay for before you leave: the art of it all.
2nd Flr., Centria Mall (Beside Lusin)