Yayu is a relatively new restaurant that opened in the failed “Vine” wine bar space on Lakeshore. The food is good, with some dishes and flavors I haven’t experienced at other Ethiopian restaurants.
Special kitfo – this was very good. The greens were very finely minced and premixed with the cheese, which had a finer texture than most preparations I’ve had of this dish. The meat itself was pleasantly spicy and very flavorful (we ordered it raw).
Yesega wot – also very good.
Lamb tibs – good flavor, could have used a better sear – the cubes came out more steamed than seared.
Azifa – this was my first time trying these – they’re mashed brown lentils spiked with Ethiopian mustard, which had a sharp, horseradish-y zing that cut through the butter and the mellower spices of the other dishes. It made for a great contrast – I’ll probably always order this dish from now on, for its palate-refreshing quality.
We also had a seasoned scrambled egg dish that doesn’t seem to be on the online menu – it was pleasant, but nothing paradigm-changing.
In contrast to most Ethiopian restaurants I’ve been to, which offer a limited selection of beer and honey wine, Yayu has a relatively ambitious wine list, with a number of not exactly budget Napa bottlings featured (Darioush, Shafer) - I wonder if they got a good deal from the Vine people when they vacated? Good budget bottles are on the list too (Castle Rock, Zardetto). I haven’t had enough of the wines to comment on the suggested pairings, but they seemed plausible to me:
The night we went, we just ordered a bottle of Hook & Ladder Gewurtzraminer for the table, which seemed to go with pretty much everything. The price isn’t online, but I remember it being very reasonable – maybe $28?
Overall, I think that Ensarro does a better job with meat dishes, but Yayu may have the edge with vegetables – I’ll have to try both a few more times before I can say definitively. I do like Yayu’s airy, gallery-like space, and the thoughtful wine list.