I had always wanted to try this restaurant when it was the Tahiti restaurant, but I never got around to it.. and then it closed. It was such a good location for a restaurant - located within walking distance of my then-boyfriend's apartment, that we watched the spot anxiously, hoping that something good would spring up in its place.
And finally something did. Yi cuisine. According to Citysearch, it's "french-inspired Asian," the chef coming from Koi. The press release on the website says that it's "artisanal Asian," and I would agree far more with that description. Not that there's a dearth of such places in LA.. but, I had to try it anyway.Reservations were made for 8:30 on Friday night, and off my friend and I went.
I don't know what the old space looked like.. the restaurant is (sort of) divided into thirds. The left-most section is indoor dining, the middle is a slender strip of outdoor dining, and the right is half lounge/bar, half more indoor dining. When we showed up, the hostess said that it would be a few more minutes and that we could get a drink if we wanted. So we did, ordering two drinks of the martini list - something with orange-flavoured vodka and mint for me, something with midori and pineapple juice for my friend. Both were well-balanced drinks. The lounge area is rather weird in my opinion. You don't know whether to sit or stand, it seems like a purgatory-ish place where you just ... wait, until your table is ready. (Also, I am not a big fan of being shuffled over to the bar to wait for my reserved table - sometimes I feel like it's a sham to get you to order a drink.)
Anyhow. We got seated approximately 15 minutes later, at one of the outdoor tables and menus were given. There's a small description of the restaurant inside the menu that repeats what's said on the opening page of their website: "We welcome you to Yi Cuisine, sanctuary for your palate and soul." Et cetera, et cetera. I often don't like introductions, it smacks of a certain pretensiousnes. The menu, rather than being divided in the standard appetizer/entree manner, instead is categorised according either to what it contains ("salad", "vegetables, soy and noodles"), or (roughly) how it's prepared ("eat it raw", "grilled", "steamed").
To start, my friend and I ordered baby romaine hearts with a roasted garlic-ginger aioli ("salad") which was yes, an elevated way of saying caesar salad. 4 hearts were served, drizzled with the aioli, anchovies, garlic croutons, parmesean cheese and pepper arranged in little piles in the corner. It was tasty, but nothing special.
I then got the "crispy pata" confit pork shank with a foie gras scented sauce ("crispy") and she got the ahi tuna steak with an indonesian spicy soy butter sauce ("grilled") and we got the garlic noodles with reggiano ("vegetables, soy and noodles") to split. My pork, while incredibly tender (though not falling off the bone) was very good, a large-sized shank served atop a bed of pea shoots (I think that's what they were?) with a buttery based dipping sauce on the side, in addition to the foie gras scented one that was drizzled atop the pork. It wasn't crispy at all, though. Still very good. The ahi tuna steak was served already sliced, atop its own bed of greens. My friend had ordered it rare, so rare it came, which was really good. The garlic noodles were nothing more than spaghetti with garlic and some cheese. I don't know, I think I'd been expecting soba noodles, or something with a more asian tinge, but not in this case. While satisfying, they were nothing special.
For dessert, we ordered the chocolate cake with caramel center, which was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. It's a variation on those molten chocolate cakes, and while it was good, it didn't blow me away.
Service throughout was rather erratic. We had at least three different waitstaff take our orders and stop by to make everything was okay. The entrees came out too fast - we were still in the middle of eating our salad when they were placed on our table. At least water was refilled more or less promptly. But it's still a new place, and I assume that they're trying to work out some of these kinks.
It is a beautiful space, and if you can sit outdoors it would make a rather nice date spot (although I'm sure inside is nice too). It was dressier than many LA restaurants, though, and I almost felt like I was dining at a restaurant downtown. The tab, for 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, 1 side, 1 dessert and 1 drink (the first two drinks were paid at the bar) came to around $90, before tip. I'd return, but am not in any rush to. While it was very good... I don't know. I have so many other favourites that I'd choose one of those anyday over Yi.