YO! Sushi in Union Station
By Nevin Martell
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
There’s a bold brashness to U.K. chain YO! Sushi, which just opened its first American outlet inside Union Station. Just look at the name; the restaurant’s physical space is equally exuberant.
At the front right, there is a refrigerated case for commuters who want to skip sitting down and grabbing their dishes from the conveyor belt that circles the central open kitchen. More than 50 items are available to go, their packaging labeled with come-ons such as “soupa hot!” and “pick me up!” When you order, most of the cold dishes are pre-prepared, while the hot dishes will take five minutes or more to put together. There’s also a selection of cold drinks, including canned oolong tea ($3) and cream-soda-style ramune soda ($3.50).
Executive chefs Mike Lewis and Noriyuki Kudo overhauled the restaurant’s U.K. offerings and added new dishes to appeal to American tastes. Portions were increased (though most diners will still need to purchase several items to feel full), more jalapenos and other chili peppers were worked into recipes, and there are more grilled and fried options.
The approach yields hits and misses.
The chicken firecracker rice ($4) is shot through with bright yellow, red and orange peppers and black sesame seeds, as well as the occasional flash of scallion alongside small chicken chunks. Another worthy choice is the best-selling breaded chicken breast katsu with a curry kick ($5). Steer clear of the too-sweet, glutinous chicken teriyaki ($5).
The spicy tuna chirashi ($8.64) is a mash of just-hot-enough fish with scallion circlets laid atop a bed of rice seasoned with a little too much sugar, kombu seaweed and a touch of seasoned rice vinegar. It comes with salad greens, and dressings -- a tangy citrus and a savory miso -- are available by request.
The sushi is more traditional, featuring sustainably sourced fish that comes in six days a week from Uoriki Fresh in Secaucus, N.J., and Philadelphia’s Samuels and Son Seafood. The straightforward salmon box ($10.68) stars exuberantly pink strips of the fish on a quartet of nigiri logs and slices of a maki roll with smooth bits of avocado. Tuna sashimi ($6) is clean-tasting yet luxuriantly rich, just as it should be.
In the end, the more demure dishes win out. Because even though there’s a lot of flash in the YO! Sushi menu, it all comes down to the fish.