Nestled in the lower village, tucked in behind pension Hurry Slowly is restaurant Yo.
Yo is not any ordinary restaurant, serving traditional Japanese cuisine you must book in advance. They only prepare the food for the bookings so just dropping in won’t do, and with only 4 tables and a barbeque room booking early is advised.
When you make the booking you’re asked which menu you’d like. On offer is the original menu at 3500¥ p/p. This consists of 9-10 dishes where you get to choose the star attraction from A – Beef Sukiyaki Course. B - Seafood course. C Vegetable course. And D – Hand-rolled sushi course.
Then there is option E – Irori Japanese BBQ. This is 4500¥ p/p. This is served in the traditional Japanese style, with a sunken hearth and coal flames. There are varieties of meat, seafood and vegetables for you to grill. Also served alongside the BBQ is hot-pot, salad sashimi and more.
Then there is option F Beef Shabu Shabu where you get a pot of simmering broth on the table to cook the thinly sliced beef. This is then dipped into your favorite sauce. Served alongside the shabu-shabu course you get temaki sushi, yakitori & salad.
As the BBQ room is booked out, we opt for the 5500¥ special course. Here you still get to choose from course A, B, C or D with the addition of a few more premium Hokkaido specialties such as Taraba crab. We both agree on A, the beef sukiyaki course.
On arrival we step through the door into a little stone garden which then leads into the restaurant.
We’re a little early (as we’re rather eager) but we’re greeted warmly. Even the chef pop’s around the corner to welcome us. We are taken through to our table. Each table is off in its own little separate room, the many small windows through to the other rooms ensure you feel private but not isolated.
As the food has already been ordered the only decision you will have to make is on what to drink, the sampler set of sakes, three very generous glasses all with the name inscribed underneath is a great way to experience the subtle differences between good sakes and get a feel for what you like to continue the evening with. We both agreed our favorite was the Hakkisan, dry with a little spice. Oishii.
As we sip away, we’re treated to a clear view of the BBQ room, it being set up for the lucky diners still to come. The charcoal smell through the restaurant is intoxicating …. We will definitely be back for BBQ soon.
The first dish of the evening is a small plate of zensai, some small school prawns, cream cheese with bonito and nori and four plump edamame with a sprinkle of togarashi.
The plate displaying the Japanese art of beauty from simplicity.
After we have savoured the zensai a small flame is lit under a stone cooker in front of each of us, under the lid, mushrooms, tofu, negi, onion, Japanese herbs and the famous wagyu sit in a little broth, gentle heating until cooked, with a raw egg on the side to dip in to.
It was recommended we wait until the flame had died out before diving in, but the smell wafting out from under the lid was a little too much to bear. (I may have actually finished the dish before the flame had died).
The following dish, a salad of prosciutto, peppers and mitzuna is light and refreshing.
Then a lidded pot is brought forth. The lid is lifted and a square of tofu is unveiled covered in a crab sauce, again the aroma leaps out and drags you in. The tofu silky soft takes the subtle flavour from the crab excellently.
The next in dish in the progression is a bit of a do it yourselfer, a small grill covered in kanji and filled with glowing coals lands on the table followed by a tray of goodness (the goodness being okra, shitake, Hokkaido diver scallop, Taraba crab leg and wagyu).
The idea is to grill each piece to your liking, then dip it in to the waiting wasabi, salt or lemon. It’s just like cooking on a bbq, only inside and at a table.
The crab is phenomenal the taraba is juicy and sweet and the flesh from the legs just keeps on coming.
The wagyu (cooked med rare to perfection…thanks chef) left a feeling of umami in my mouth that just wouldn’t quit.
A trio of nigiri appeared quickly after the grill was removed the rice shaped into little rounds, which were oh-so-cute. A nice change from the more traditional rectangle shape. They were topped with salmon, eel and scallop, still warm from the cooker and seasoned just so.
As the last nigiri disappeared a plate of ultra fresh sashimi filled its place. More scallop and salmon this time accompanied with tuna, snapper and prawn. We’re both still trying to get our head around the whole raw prawn…. it’s a texture thing.
By now we were starting to feel content but there were still three courses to come…..
The first a piece white fish with sautéed Japanese greens and wild mushrooms, again beautiful in it’s simplicity.
Then a braised pork belly, so tender and full of flavour. Japanese pork can really make you do a double take on how much flavour it can have. The belly topped with a dab of hot Japanese mustard to cut the richness.
Finally, a slice of adzuki, (small red bean), and chestnut cakes with a cup of Japanese tea.
The cakes were delicate and with the tea a perfect end to a meal when you just need a mouthful of something sweet to finish off.
Feeling happily content we wandered off into the snow knowing the next time we come we’ll be hurrying not too slowly as we know what’s waiting.
Website: Restaurant Yo
155-416 Aza Yamada Kutchan
Also seen in Powderlife Magazine.