THE DISH: Swift, Sexy and Expensive
Yuzu//Suvorovski Prospket, 51. Tel. 600 23 51.//Open from 12 p.m. til the last guest weekdays, from 1 p.m. weekends.//Dinner for two with alcohol: 4,070 rubles ($130.13)
Published: May 8, 2013 (Issue # 1758)
Yuzu, a Japanese-style restaurant near Chernyshevskaya, in some ways offers a déjà vu dining experience as yet another St. Petersburg restaurant with a trendy, impeccably designed interior, eager wait staff and next to no patrons. However, the way that Yuzu differs from the rest is that the food is exceptionally good. While your wallet is guaranteed to feel the blow after an evening at Yuzu, your stomach will not, as what might be called “refined” portion size is probably the most genuinely Japanese thing about the restaurant.
Yuzu is certainly not going for cozy and inviting, but rather for a more swift and sexy dining experience. The one thing adding warmth to the ambiance was the “virtual fireplace” DVD playing on the wall-mounted TV, bringing us back to another, quainter time, when those atmospheric touches were commonplace, circa the early 2000s. Immediately noticeable was the wall mural painted with zebras, roses and trompe l’oeil drapery, while an installation of glass bottles, backlit with green light, protruded from the other wall. Hanging light bulbs descended into the dining space of each table, making you feel like you should either be introducing the next act on the lineup or interrogating your dining companion.
If it wasn’t already obvious enough that the restaurant is catering to the hip, tech-dependent generation, the menu is delivered on an iPad. The tablet offers an easy interface that can be switched between English and Russian (alas, is does not allow access to the Internet or the App Store). Also worth noting is that the dishes, once they landed on the table, looked just as they were pictured, seemingly down to the very last pine nut and swirl of sauce.
After we had tinkered sufficiently with our menus, we warmed ourselves with the hot “Kramer Method” cocktail (300 rubles, $9.60), a bright pink concoction delivered in a miniscule glass teapot and two equally diminutive glass tea cups. Closer to a punch than a cocktail, the Kramer Method erred on the sweet side, but its gingery bite saved the drink from being totally one-note. Other artisan cocktails on the list include “The Experiment No. 1,” a mix of vodka, lemongrass, basil and elderberries, which seemed worth experimenting with; and “The Silent Martini,” which, with its unexpected blend of vodka, ginger and arugula, would surely deliver the opposite result in the drinker.
At this point, we were now ready to get down to some serious eating.
Listed as both an appetizer and a dessert, the fresh figs stuffed with goat cheese, toasted pine nuts and a touch of balsamic (400 rubles, $12.79), were as tasty as they were lovely to look at. Goat cheese paired with something fruity is always a winning combination, and the figs were the perfect vessel for the creamy, warm cheese, with the pine nuts providing a pleasant crunchy counterpoint.
The Thai duck salad (650 rubles, $20.78) — shredded bits of slightly crispy, roasted duck in a sweet and peppery sauce, topped with arugula — is a little plateful of happiness for any duck lover, while the Sashimi “New Style” (650 rubles, $20.78) — morsels of raw salmon and scallops wading in a citrus-infused, sesame-soy sauce and topped liberally with fresh ginger — was every bit as good as raw fish in Russia could be.
The beef medallion served with warm berries, arugula and a spicy, soy-infused au jus (1,270 rubles, $40.61) was cooked to a perfect medium (and not a second over) and brought out the carnivorous in us as we tried to stay diplomatic while tearing through the steak to the last scrap. While the garnishes were nice touches, they seemed like an afterthought in comparison to the exquisite piece of meat and its Asian-inspired sauce. The chef at Yuzu is not afraid of spice, and while none of the dishes had us wiping tears away, they did deliver a welcome punch of heat.
Desserts are kept simple, with several that are simply fruit. The restaurant is bold enough, for example, to charge 500 rubles for a plate of berries. Deciding to sample something that required a bit more effort and inventiveness, we went for the poached cherries with vanilla ice cream (380 rubles, $12.15). A warm cherry compote with an artistic, abominable-snowman like swirl of vanilla ice cream offered little challenge to the taste buds. With a few somewhat crumbly butter cookies to accompany it, there was nothing on the plate to complain about, but also nothing to marvel at, particularly after the sublime steak we had just devoured.
Over an espresso (190 rubles, $6.07) and a green tea with fresh mint (230 rubles, $7.35), we both agreed that we would gladly enjoy another meal at Yuzu…perhaps on that very same night.