Yuji’s Japanese Tapas

Restaurant: Yuji’s Japanese Tapas
Cuisine: Japanese/Izakaya/Fusion/Sushi/Tapas
Last visited: July 6, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Kitsilano)
Address: 2059 W 4th Ave
Price Range: $20-30+ (Closer to $30)

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3
Service: 2
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 3
Additional comments:

  • Open for 8 years
  • Closing Saturday July 9, 11
  • Chef Yuji
  • Japanese owned/operated
  • Japanese fusion
  • Extensive menu
  • Sushi bar
  • Creative & original sushi
  • Euro-Asian tapas
  • Neighbourhood favourite
  • Sophisticated
  • Moderately priced
  • Award winning
  • Tues-Thurs : 5pm – 10:30pm
  • Friday 5pm – 11pm
  • Saturday: 5pm – 11pm

**Recommendations: Panko Sesame Fried Six-Hour Braised Beef Tongue. The rest of my recs are good if you’re going, but the value isn’t really there: Big Eye Tuna Carpaccio White Truffle Olive Oil, Seared Albacore Tuna with Sesame Seeds and Breaded Prosciutto Wrapped Camembert Cheese Deep Fried. People love the Sweet Potato Tempura Sticks and they were good, but not mind blowing for me.

I’m going to make this short and sweet. Who am I kidding? Nothing on Follow Me Foodie is ever short… I hope sweet though… well actually my posts are not always sweet, but my desserts usually are! ;)

I came here for dinner yesterday and discovered that it was closing this coming Saturday July 9, so being the obsessed food blogger that I am, I had to get this post up immediately. I have to tell you guys about it if you want to try it before it closes! (It’s 5am as I edit this, please cope with me).

After 8 years, the award winning Yuji’s Japanese Tapas is closing its doors. I know this upsets many of you as it does have a strong following of loyal customers. I’ve been here a couple times in the past, but it’s been a while for me. Honestly I remember it being better, or maybe I’m just too spoiled with all the new izakaya places that have popped up – *ahem* Suika. It’s only fair to compare with what’s available now because if you can’t keep up with your competition then what’s the point on staying open? On the other hand I think Yuji has proven his success and is just retiring, so I’ll leave that question open ended as we see the doors to Yuji’s close forever.

I don’t want to be a prima donna (and I’m not), but I’m actually pretty annoyed with the service. We were two people and we ordered enough for 4-6 and they refused to give us a bigger table so I almost had dishes on my lap. They ended up slowing down the flow of our order, so dinner just took even longer than if we had a bigger table. If it was Friday or Saturday I’d understand, but I was staring at 2 empty tables of 4 right beside us for the hour and fourty-ish minutes we were there. I was choked, but I guess it doesn’t matter anymore.

Anyways my point is to show you what I had, and if there’s anything you care to try, or have one last and final time, then you better go before this Saturday. Be warned though, I’m not sure if Chef Yuji has gone on “vacation mode” already, but some items were incredibly overpriced and not well executed. I didn’t see the value in a lots of things and I almost ordered the entire tapas menu and I wasn’t that full. I know I eat a lot, but still, just see for yourself what’s on the table…

On the table:

Goma-ae2/6

  • $5
  • I find this sickly overpriced for goma-ae, but it was recommended and I love goma-ae.
  • This was made with watercress instead of spinach and I actually liked the change. It was crunchier and almost more refreshing than spinach.
  • It was very lightly coated with a house made sesame dressing.
  • The dressing was made with finely grated sesame, but very mild and a bit thick in taste. It was creamy and nutty, but one tone. For sesame sauce it was a milder goma-ae dressing.

**Big Eye Tuna Carpaccio White Truffle Olive Oil5/6

  • $20
  • This was excellent, but it is expensive. It’s Big Eye Tuna AND White Truffle Oil though, so it’s expected.
  • The slices are thin, but there’s a decent amount, although the plate is very small.
  • The tuna was fresh and the whole dish tasted like ultra tender beef drizzled with sweet and tangy balsamic vinegar with a dash of citrusy ponzu, the aroma of truffle oil, and hint of freshly cracked black pepper.
  • It’s topped with crispy deep fried capers which almost came off as mildly salty and nutty garlic chips. The juicy salty sharp edge on the capers was taken off from the frying.
  • The truffle oil was mild, but I got the aroma of it and it was there.
  • It was simple, as something made with such high quality ingredients should be, but I needed more black pepper and deep fried capers.
  • It had a simple olive oil and balsamic dressed salad in the centre.

Maguro Mari-ne4/6

  • Fresh albacore tuna chunks marinated in three bowls of spicy, sesame, and yuzu citrus sauce $9
  • Each shot glass came with 3 cubes of albacore tuna.
  • The tuna is fresh and creamy, but I wish the glasses were larger because the top pieces weren’t marinated as well and the sauce was all at the bottom.
  • Spicy – 5/6
    • My favourite was this one, which I’m sure represents their spicy tuna marinade, so anything spicy tuna is probably good too.
    • It’s a bold and almost creamy sauce. I’ve had ones similar to it before, but it’s still a great house made sauce.
    • It’s initially sweet, strong with aromatic sesame oil and then mixed with what I think is Korean soybean chili pepper paste (Gochujang), so the heat comes at the end and gives a nice kick.
    • It’s very sweet and salty at first and then a very flavourful spicy – not just hot.
  • Sesame - 4/6
    • It was the goma-ae sauce but mixed with Japanese soy sauce.
    • It was a very smoky and nutty sauce with very finely ground sesame seeds and sesame oil.
    • It had a nice saltiness from the soy sauce, but you had to let it soak a while to absorb that saltiness or it was just smoky from the toasted sesame flavours.
  • Yuzu Citrus Sauce - 3/6
    • It was just tangy yuzu sauce and I could taste the licorice aroma yuzu has.
    • It was good, but the most obvious of the three.

**Seared Albacore Tuna with Sesame Seeds4/6

  • Seared albacore tuna with sesame seeds on ponzu mustard mayo sauce $9
  • It was great, but I really think it should have been served on a bed of shredded daikon for $9.
  • The tuna was very well crusted with tightly packed white and black sesame seeds and I loved that.
  • I know this sounds kind of odd, but both my dining partner and I thought it tasted like a hot dog. That was totally due to the mustard aspect.

Excuse the poor photo but there was no room on the table… read intro.

  • I think this was another reason why it tasted like a hot dog. The tuna was a bit overcooked and past “seared” so it was almost like pork and not as tender.
  • The flavours were well assembled though and it was soaked in citrusy ponzu sauce and the Dijon mustard mayo gave it the creamy boldness and added kick it needed.
  • It came with a lot of pieces, but very small, and the price is alright, but still… it needs the bed of daikon salad.

Yuji’s California Salad Roll – 3/6

  • Crab cake, avocado, lettuce, cucumber and tobiko with wasabi mayo wrapped in rice paper $7.50
  • They used real crab so I found the price was okay, but it was one Vietnamese salad roll cut into 4 pieces.
  • It was basically a carb-free California roll.
  • It was really good and instead of the typical vermicelli noodles it was real flaked crab with only a bit of mayo.
  • I loved the tobiko which gave it a nice crunch with the lettuce, and together with the creamy avocado it had good texture.
  • It was wrapped quite loosely though and they were quite soft.
  • The sauce was the spicy tuna sauce again. It was sweet initially, quite salty and aromatic with sesame oil and then it had that Korean soybean chili pepper paste (Gochujang) spiciness to it. The roll was best with this sauce.
  • The other sauce tasted like Teriyaki sauce.

Beef Tataki - 3/6

  • Tender beef, thinly sliced and lightly seared accompanied by a shredded Fuji apple and ponzu citrus sauce $8
  • The amount of slices were fair, but very small, and it almost tasted like flank steak. The steak was actually a bit chewy.

  • What inspired me to order this was the Fuji apple twist. I actually liked the Fuji compared to the Granny Smith because the ponzu was tangy enough as is. The Fuji brought a sweetness.
  • The apples were barely julienne and I expected cleaner cutting techniques from a restaurant of this style. I was almost eating them separately from the beef because they weren’t sliced finely enough and well incorporated.
  • I liked the nutty garlic chips and the ponzu was just regular tangy ponzu sauce.
  • It’s good, but could have been better and maybe not as special as I expected.

**Sweet Potato Tempura Sticks4/6

  • Served with tartar, soy ginger, and spicy tomato sauce. One of Yuji’s most popular dishes. $7.50
  • I swear these have been the house favourite since it opened!
  • They’re great, but I also think it’s because of the clientele that just enjoys tempura “fries”.
  • It’s also the item with the best value and if you don’t order this, it’s hard to get full.
  • It’s a generous amount of thick cut sweet potato wedges (not yams) battered in a puffy tempura flour batter. The batter isn’t actually that thin, but it’s puffy, quite crispy and well seasoned.
  • The inside is a very tender, soft and creamy sweet potato and they are good, but filling.
  • Soy Ginger – It was a bit jelly-ish with an apparent ginger flavour. It was sweet and salty and almost like Teriyaki sauce mixed with garlic paste and pureed ginger. The ginger wasn’t spicy and there aren’t bits of ginger in it either.
  • Tartar – It tasted like curry mayo, but it’s not spicy or that tangy for “tartar” sauce for that matter. It’s the best of the 3 dips for me.
  • Spicy Tomato Sauce – It tasted like Ketchup. I didn’t find it spicy at all.
  • It came after, but I actually like the Yam & Unagi Tempura Sticks at Gyo-O Kaisen Shokudo Japanese Restaurant better. I like variety and it’s served similar with three sauces.

Creamy Ebi Asparagus Spring Roll1/6

  • Prawn, asparagus and bechamel sauce wrapped in spring roll paper deep fried $7.50
  • This was expensive and small! It was so overpriced and not worth it at all.
  • The inside was filled with 1/4 of a julienne asparagus stem which obviously got overcooked and soggy in the deep frying process.
  • The prawn was very tiny and a bit overcooked and it tasted fishy, not in a fresh way either.
  • The bechamel sauce was thick and creamy, but it had no flavour so it just added a rich texture.
  • The roll was crispy, but still chewy because it was almost all wrapper and barely any filling.
  • The side of Dijon mustard mayo and Tonkatsu sauce (Japanese BBQ sauce) for dipping just didn’t do anything, especially with the bechamel already inside.
  • I can’t say I appreciate the random shrimp chips as garnish, although good.

Grilled Sable Fish (Black Cod)2/6

  • Sable fish marinated in miso, sake & mirin, grilled to perfection $9
  • I pretty much always order this and this was probably one of the most overpriced and smallest grilled sable fish I’ve ordered at a Japanese restaurant.
  • It was incredibly thin and I think it was cut in half. The fish was juicy, moist and buttery as it always is, but just way too thin.
  • It was decently savoury, but I didn’t taste much infused miso marinade and there was no smokiness or depth from the robata process.
  • The skin was crispy at times and soggy at others.
  • It was served with a side of miso sauce which was very thick, creamy and concentrated with miso paste. I liked it, but it’s salty.
  • The Grilled Sable Fish at Hapa Izakaya – see here, or Guu – see here is better, and the best and most authentic for me is at Aki Japanese – see here.

Breaded Prosciutto Wrapped Camembert Cheese Deep Fried – 4/6

  • $9.50
  • This is as good as “bacon” wrapped deep fried cheese can get… which is pretty amazing! There’s nothing to it, but it’s still good.
  • It was served with two random pieces of creamy and tangy mayo dressed cooked cauliflower.
  • I would have preferred something to accompany this because it was so rich and indulgent that I wanted to spread it over something or I wanted the pieces to be a bit smaller.
  • I had two of these. It felt good at the time, but not so great after. Still worth it.

  • It was crusted with a very crunchy and crispy Panko batter and the inside was a chunk of ooey gooey ultra creamy, buttery rich, melt in your mouth Camembert cheese, which is almost like a stronger more pungent brie.
  • It was quite salty from the prosciutto, but delicious with the sweet raspberry coulis. What I didn’t like was that the coulis was not fresh and quite artificial and sweet in flavour. I almost thought it was Smuckers syrup.
  • The dish actually reminded me of an appetizer I had at Pair Bistro – see Comox Valley Fried Camembert.

**Panko Sesame Fried Six-Hour Braised Beef Tongue5/6

  • $9.50
  • This was easily my favourite and most memorable dish of the night.
  • It was unique, creative, great presentation, and I’ve never seen it anywhere else yet.
  • It was so cute! Using the wooden pestle you self-grind the toasted white sesame seeds in the bamboo mortar.
  • It was almost like a panko and black and white sesame crusted beef brisket meatball.
  • If you’ve never had tongue before (wow that sounds bad), but if you’ve never had it, it tastes like ultra tender, gelatinous free beef. In this case it tasted like lean beef brisket and you would never guess it was tongue if you didn’t know. I pretty much guarantee it.

  • You dip the crispy cubes of beef in the black saucer which is filled with Tonkatsu sauce (tangy Japanese BBQ sauce with a kick) and then roll it in the toasted sesame seeds you self-grind.
  • I loved it! It was aromatic, nutty, and the beef was incredibly tender and melt in your mouth, as it should be for being braised for SIX hours!
  • On the other hand the meat was quite dry and without the thick and bold Tonkatsu sauce it would have been pretty bland, but nutty from the sesame crust. If it was juicy I would have given it 6/6.
  • This is pretty much the only item that I will actually miss a lot.

**Prosciutto Roll – 3.5/6

  • Cream Cheese mango rolled in rice and encased in Italian prosciutto. Pesto & sweet soy sauce. $8
  • This is their most popular roll and most creative too. It’s also the smallest and priciest.
  • It sounded better on the menu and it came out kind of plain and could have been better executed with better pesto and prosciutto wrapped all around. For $8 I think it’s a fair request.
  • The sweet mango got lost even though it was ripe and I could see it.
  • I think it would be better with cantaloupe to give an added crunch because the whole thing was quite soft and creamy.
  • I could taste the salty bite of prosciutto and then the cream cheese was quite strong and rich.
  • The pesto was very weak and minimal and I couldn’t taste it at all. It was some sort of herb puree with olive oil.
  • The drizzle of sweet soy sauce brought the sweet aspect out more than the mango did. For me, with prosciutto, a sweet balsamic reduction would be better.
  • It was pretty rice heavy, but the rice was moist and flavourful and a bit on the sweeter side. The sushi rice is solid here though.

Toro Sashimi3/6

  • $15
  • $15 for very small pieces of toro was not cool. They were sliced very small and thin although the quality was quite good.
  • They came out chilled and they were a bit firm, but after a couple minutes its oils started to release and it became juicy, buttery and delicious.
  • The cutting technique was good, but way too small and few for $15.
  • I wouldn’t say Yuji’s is a place for sashimi, not that it’s not good, but it’s just overpriced.

Yuji's Japanese Tapas on Urbanspoon

Dessert

The dessert at Yuji’s was a Green Tea Creme Brulee with Ice Cream and then a selection of Green Tea, Vanilla, and Black Sesame ice cream. I wasn’t too inspired and I’ve had their Green Tea Creme Brulee before so I decided to head across the street to Scoop! for frozen yogurt! See my post for Scoop! here.

To my surprise Scoop! (across the street from Yuji’s) was offering two new summer flavours: Coconut and Passionfruit. I got a matcha and coconut fro-yo mix and I didn’t realize until now, but my toppings look almost exactly the same as the one I had last time – see here.

[geotag]

Scoop! on Urbanspoon

13 Comments

  • Jonathan says:

    A review for posterity! I love the fusion dishes they do.. it is a loss for Kits! Too bad about the service, sashimi and sablefish, I have had better experiences over the years (but it does get super-busy and they are hawkish about seating).

  • 4SlicesofCheese says:

    I went there for the first time about 4 months ago. A friend and I were trying to hit every izakaya spot in Vancouver and this was pretty high on some website.

    After we entered the front door, it was totally not what we were expecting, we almost thought we went in the wrong place. It wasn’t necessarily bad but I do not think we were their target demographic. It basically looked like an average sushi spot.

    The service we had was quite good although it was a quiet evening, maybe that has something to do with it.

    As for the food again, nothing was bad but it all seemed pretty average and honestly I could not remember anything we ate until I saw your pics, the menu was quite safe, maybe they have a fresh sheet we didn’t get to see.

    I am not sure their reasoning for closing, but from my experience I would say they would have a hard time gaining new clientele do the the amazing selection of izakayas available. Like their decor it seems like they are being left a bit in the past.
    For the loyal locals that are upset, I would say don’t fret there are many new places to try!

  • LotusRapper says:

    I never did make it to Yuji’s all the time they were there.

    I’ve been to Shijo a few times (south side of 4th) and liked them. However they seemed to have lost their grip on the local market and eventually closed.

  • Mijune says:

    @Jonathan – yeah I just think you should try to keep customers happy especially if they’re not just wanting the space for the sake of it being free, but because we actually needed it to enjoy our meal and we pretty much paid for it. It was uncomfortable.

    @4SlicesofCheese – I think you couldn’t have said it any better. I feel the same way! Wow! Every izakaya place in Vancouver would lead to big bills since it’s such a pricier way of dining. I bet you had fun though! I really see value in your comment, thanks for leaving it.

    @LotusRapper – You think you will make it before it closes? Or not interested? I have to try Shijo! OH never mind.. I was replying sentence by sentence lol.

  • Kevin says:

    Your timing for this visit is so eery..!

  • Mijune says:

    @Kevin – I know!!! Part of me was excited to be just in time and the other part of me thought “oh sh!t… I’m pulling an all nighter to get this up by tomorrow for ppl”

  • LotusRapper says:

    @Mijune – what a trooper, stays up late to write a review for her followers :-D

    I doubt I’ll make it by end of Saturday. Honestly, part of me feels a bit weary of Japanese cuisine these days, whether it’s run-of-the-mill sushi or izakaya or omakase. Not sure why. When summer rolls around I feel like spicy food. Not Chinese nor Korean neither. Maybe more Latino/Mexican. Oooops, I’m rambling here aren’t I ? Sorry.

  • Mijune says:

    @LotusRapper – I’ll try and do some Mexican/Latino research for you! :)

  • Linda says:

    i’m so sad i didn’t get to visit this place before it closed :( the items look very unique and definitely very different compared to places like guu and hapa! i still remember this place opening up when i was in university – i should’ve tried it sooner :(

    i hope they open another location soon so i could try the tempura sticks and the panko sesame fried six-hour braised beef tongue.. BUT i’m sad that you got such poor service! especially with all the food you guys were ordering!

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – aww too bad!! We’ll he’s planning to come back in a year and reopening something smaller I think! I know the service was soooo disappointing… this meal was for two people.. just give us a bigger table!!

  • Kevin says:

    Sushi by Yuji!

  • Mark says:

    Yuji’s is back under the name Yuji’s From Japan at 2083 Alma St.

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