I met Yama's owner Yozo over a month ago when I sold him some gear (tube amplifier). When we parted Yozo gave me his business card and invited me to visit his restaurant. Even if I don't eat sushi regularly, I was curious about Yama @ 49th so I went there today.
The maitre'd was very friendly and seated me immediately (pic1), the place was half-full and the restaurant was just starting to take on their dinner crowd. Service was quick and I felt at home. (No, I didn't name-drop or ask for the owner... I don't think Yama is that type of place where service "varies" depending on who they're serving.) I also felt attended to but in an almost unobtrusive way. Great, I was in for a quiet dinner.
But then Yozo walked by, saw me, said hi then went back to his office and brought out a buncha Japanese audio magazine and I thought-- oh no, I don't want to talk shop, I want to eat! Before I could think up an excuse, there was a plate of soft-shelled crab in front of me (pic2), the first I'm having this season. Honestly, I wasn't didn't think I'd be surprised even if Yama's version reminds me of Oriental Garden's in Elizabeth, i.e. lightly battered and fried, one of my favorites.
But this one tastes better!-- more of a crab taste, less "tempura." The trick I think was in how they managed to preserve and not overcook the inside of the crab (pic3). Heck, I'd even say this was the best soft-shelled crab I've ever had but, to be fair to y'all, shall disclose that (I found out later) this appetizer was "comped," along with a glass of sake. So there :)
Then came the sashimi plate (pic4). Very fresh and the slices were noticeably "larger than usual." I've really haven't had a "transcendental" experience eating sushi (or sashimi) so I'll just say this dish met my expectations although I thought the price was more than fair. At the end of this meal, perhaps what I'll most remember Yama for is the accomodating, friendly atmosphere coupled with an overall absence of pretense that comes through in the the quality of their food.