Japanese food is still a cuisine that frightens me somewhat. It shouldn’t, I love noodles, tempura, punchy flavours and okonomiyaki is an absolute favourite, but I just don’t choose to go out for it. Sushi has always underwhelmed me (cue hoards of “you haven’t tried the good stuff”, please don’t) so getting an invite to Yankinori on Park Street meant I got to try something new.
Yakinori serves noodles, sushi and bento with a heavy lean on Japanese dishes and flavours with other east Asian dishes making an appearance on the menu too. With main dishes mostly in the £10 – £13 price range, it isn’t a cheap option but the restaurant is fun with an open kitchen, large manga style graphics on the wall and a rather shocking amount of orange used throughout.
It didn’t start well, I was told a reservation had been made for me but on entering the very busy restaurant, they didn’t know I was coming. With their 50% off offer through the week, it wasn’t surprising they were packed and luckily there was space at the open kitchen bar. The waiter was obviously struggling to keep up but he was still attentive, explained the menu and helped with a substitution for my dining partner with her fish allergies.
She went for the chicken kokonatsu curry but swapped the thai red curry paste for thai green curry and I decided to try the tempura bento so I was able to try a little bit of everything. There was a wait of about 40 minutes but we enjoyed our beers and watching the chefs hard at work. It was quite exciting to watch them work at speed on multiple dishes. The place itself is colourful and bright and obviously designed to be somewhere you eat then go rather than hang around in.
My friends’ curry was a large portion and a very vivid green, the vegetables were in short supply sadly, with it mostly consisting of courgette and bean sprouts and the sauce lacked depth. You would expect with a substitution for things not to be as great as the original but it did end up being a bit of a monotonous bowl of green curry.
My bento wasn’t hugely better, with it being one of the more pricey dishes (£15.70) and promising tempura crab, king prawn, aubergine and squid, sushi, takoyaki , pickles and rice. The portions felt a bit mean and really lacked any flavour, I couldn’t tell the difference between the three seafood tempura and the takoyaki didn’t seem to have any octopus in it. The sushi again wasn’t anything to write home about, it was perfectly fine but I was expecting something a bit more exciting. The presentation of both dishes was lovely, the bento box felt exciting to open and I appreciated the variety of food you could pack into one.
All in all the food left us a bit cold and if I had paid full price for it, I would have been disappointed. I can’t, however, praise the staff enough, they were wonderfully attentive in a very busy restaurant and the chefs remained chipper throughout a busy service. I’m not sure I will be back but it certainly has encouraged me to seek out a new flavours.
Please note this meal was offered free of charge and was not sent to the restaurant before publishing.