Spanish mackerel sashimi. photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

Review: Yutaka Sushi Bistro

The sushi cult is already all over Yutaka Yamoto, whose new spot in Uptown has shot to the top of the list of essential sushi stops.

Ever vigilant for more-new-better places to get its raw-fish fix, the sushi cult is already all over Yutaka Yamoto. This former sushi chef at Citizen and Nobu has a good rep. One of his biggest cheerleaders is Chris Ward, his ex-boss at Citizen, and Avner Samuel’s a fan, too. Is there a worthier voucher than that of another chef?

So add Yutaka Sushi Bistro, a small storefront in Uptown, to the list of essential sushi stops. Rolls such as tuna and yellowtail centered on impeccably handled fish, but the seaweed casing showed finesse as well, tearing apart cleanly when bitten. A vegetable roll with avocado, gobo root, and asparagus hummed a tuneful three-part harmony.
But Yutaka has ideas beyond sushi. His intriguing menu puts his bistro in the same avant-garde league as Nobu and Tei Tei. Gyoza dumplings usually contain pork, but Yutaka filled his with spicy tuna and pan-seared them until crisp, with fantastic results. Ishiyaki Kobe beef had sizzle, baby: medallions of raw beef were draped over blazing-hot stones where they hissed and writhed, ready to be plucked when cooked to your liking.
It was mostly small plates, designed for sharing and exploring tastes and ideas. Skewers of asparagus and chicken, grilled until smoky, slid willingly off the skewer and into the mouth. Slices of soft, red tuna tataki floated like mini-rafts in a vivid green pool of puréed cilantro sauce. A martini glass brimmed with bites of crab, clam, and shrimp, all lush and juicy, the sexiest confab of seafood imaginable, frothing with sprouts and strips of seaweed.

Yutaka is a tiny, tranquil space, with natural materials such as reeds and stone. The sushi counter—a spectacular slab of ash, a single piece of wood 14 feet long—is worth the trip alone, though ash fans aren’t nearly as diligent as the sushi cult.

Get contact information for Yutaka Sushi Bistro.

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