Yuzu Kitchen is small, focused and doesn’t mess around. This storefront on commerce-centric Route 9 in Manalapan zeroes in on what it does and, if you happen to miss the huge billboard of a menu, or fail to notice the edged-in-neon-lime printed copies, one of the folks at the ordering counter will clue you in post-haste as to what this newcomer is about.
Poke, ramen and sushi burrito. Snag a Yuzu Kitchen signature take on any of these or employ the build-your-own strategy. Eat in or take home.
Dining’s future is here and it’s fast-casual. In a way the Jetsons never imagined.
How many times have you heard some new fast-casual eatery described as “like Chipotle, only – – -.” Fill in the blanks. Well, Yuzu Kitchen is a Hawaiian-leaning, Asian-fusion joint gone partly the Chipotle route in how it’s operated. Yuzu’s owners, Anna and Gary Shargorodsky, have fused their love of poke, fishes and Asian ingredients into a get-fresh-quick format that can have you in, fed and out in short order or allow you to linger over BYO libations.
You get choice here. Our choice was to start with refreshing cold, kale noodles, pretty pine-colored spaghetti-like strands tossed with a spirited, citrusy yuzu house dressing. I wished for a few more batons of carrot and daikon on mine, but that’s a minor gripe.
No gripes at all about the Korean nachos, which take crisp chips of fried wonton and tops them with pork belly and kimchi, then sprinkles the pile with shreds of cheddar and slices of scallion. Finish with a drizzle of creamy yuzu dressing and you’re bound to say, “Ole!”
I was less impressed with the pork-filled steamed buns: The square slab of pork wasn’t particularly juicy or tender and the soy glaze lacked piquant spirit, failing to unite the meat with the trio of toppings—cucumber, cilantro and scallions.
The ramen is the other weak link in Yuzu’s repertoire. Though our bowl of chicken ramen held a lovely, soft-boiled egg, enoki, scallions and meat aplenty, the chicken was tiny-cubed white meat while the broth was bland and characterless.
But the poke and the burrito are primo. We chose to have our tuna poke served over salad greens instead of rice, which might not be the norm, but seemed right on a 90-degree night. The cubes of sushi-grade fish mingled happily with wakame and furikake, offering a counterpoint as well to abundant edamame, flecks of scallion, cucumber and onion and a judicious shake of sesame seeds.
The nori-wrapped sushi burrito tops the charts. We snagged the Titan, which stars the triumverate of tuna, salmon and kani and gives supporting status to avocado, jalapeno and crisped onion. Packed in rice and shot through with a zesty poke sauce, it’s fun fare that tastes so plain-old-delicious that I’ll bet George, Jane, Judy and even Elroy would love it.
Sushi burrito? Who knew? But, no need to stop this crazy thing, for sure.
Yuzu Kitchen, 356 Route 9 Northbound, Manalapan. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 732-414-2303; yuzukitchen.net.Click here to leave a comment