As readers here know, eating at a new place in this town is often risky business and certainly always an adventure: sometimes the menu and the food arent ready for prime time, sometimes the service isnt well trained yet and sometimes the space doesnt work well
a thousand things can stand in the way of a pleasant experience for the discriminating diner
and then there are those happy occasions when the stars align and everything is perfect. Today was just one of those unexpected surprises. A friend suggested we try Yu, the new pan-Asian restaurant that opened last week in the old Wolfgang Puck Café space on Montana in Santa Monica. (I must confess that Id forgotten about Yu, just one in a long string of monosyllabic restaurants to open on the Westside in the past few weeks). I was anxious to see what theyd done to the old Puck place. To be fair, I thankfully did not read an earlier posting about Yu until tonight and am happy to say I had a much more positive experience to write about.
The rain was coming down pretty hard when we arrived. Inside, a beautiful sanctuary welcomed us. Warm woods decorated the temple-like room, candles flickered, and bamboo birdcages and lanterns hung from the high ceilings. We walked in shortly before noon and we werent sure the place was even opened yet .there werent any customers it WAS the staff assured us. We chose to sit in the bar area (a comfortable space with the requisite flat screen TV). A quick study of their wine list revealed many Californian favorites, both by the glass and by the bottle, along with a variety of sakes. We chose a luscious pinot noir from the Central coast; the wine was expertly presented and served by the bartender in elegant stemware (a bonus for those who take their wine seriously). The menu offered something for everyone: soups; a "raw and roll" section with interesting sashimi and sushi (rolls $8 and sushi $6); salads; small bites ($6-$10); and large bites ($14-$22). We sampled a few of their small bites and everything we tasted was delicious. The wok fried manila clams with Chinese sausage in shao sing wine ($9) had just the right kick and the sauce was so good we had to get some jasmine rice to sop it up with, tasty Vietnamese lemongrass crusted spare ribs ($10) arrived in their own tiny wok set atop a base with a candle burning to keep them warm (nice touch), marinated grilled Indonesian beef sirloin satays with peanut sauce were succulent and finger-licking good. Unlike other new places Ive read about here, each serving was generous (even numbered pieces!) and plenty to share for two. We finished our lunch with espressos and a rich chocolate cake beautifully presented with fresh fruit artfully arranged on the plate. I have a feeling that not too many people know about this place yet although I was assured that it was packed on Saturday night.
The executive chef is Andrew DeGroot (from Casa del Mar) and his menu is up at www.yurestaurants.com. Yu is open for lunch Tuesday-Sunday 11:30 a.m. 2:30 p.m. and dinner nightly 6:00 10:30 p.m. (light menu late evenings 10:30 p.m. 2:00 a.m. beginning soon). Their take-away menu labeled the food as "Asian Pan Rim Fusion Cuisine"...that has to be a first! Our bartender/server couldnt have been more gracious, the food was delicious and the setting provided a perfect respite from the unseasonable winter weather. I wont wait for the next rainstorm to hit LA before my next visit. In the spirit of being fair, go out and experience this place for
Yu Restaurant & Lounge
1323 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403