Friday 8 December 2017

Good to see YUU again! // Yuu Kitchen restaurant review

If you like pretty plates of food, you have come to the right place! October marked the first birthday of Yuu Kitchen, a pan-Asian restaurant in London's Aldgate which I had the pleasure of attending the launch and opening of last year. When the Yuu Kitchen team invited me back to try some things from their new season menu, excited was an understatement!

On arrival we were presented with two of the most exquisitely presented cocktails. I don't normally drink cocktails with a meal (usually I would drink them beforehand / after / or before AND after if I'm feeling particularly fancy!) but both cocktails were beautifully light and pleasant to drink, not clashing with any aspects of the meal.

The first was a sharing cocktail called the Blushing Geisha which was presented as the cutest little tea set on a board with edible flowers. Said to contain cold infused jasmine tea, umeshu liqueur, vodka and sugar syrup, I couldn't initially detect any tea and only got hit with the liquor in a massive way. But over time, you could taste the tea. This was a light and fresh offering, which didn't detract away from the food.

The second was a one person cocktail named the Junk Boat, and contained gin, lemon juice, crème de apricot, vanilla syrup, and egg whites. I have never before had a cocktail that was so wonderfully multi layered like this one was. On the initial sip there was a lovely fresh and light citrus aspect to the drink, then a peach element as you caught a bit of the peach foam. This cocktail reminded me a little of a pina colada and brought a bit of sunshine to a dark winter's evening.

After such a impressive start, we sat hotly in anticipation of what was to follow.

Okra fries

Coated in a perfectly light batter - I don't like too heavy a batter on things - these were a delight to dip into the chilli mayo which had a little kick of heat, but not too much. The contrast of the crispy batter against the smooth puréed dip was a marriage made in heaven. These were deliciously moreish and I discovered the okra were especially delicious when dipped into the dipping sauce which accompanied the mushroom dumplings (below)

Salted edamame

Edamame is something that I usually order when I am out, so I was really pleased to see these on the menu. These were salted to perfection with a great crunch. Yuu also offer a chilli edamame alternative if you prefer - but I personally find you can't beat thick grains of sea salt!

Mushroom dumplings

There were unlike any mushroom dumplings I have ever had before. Ones I have tried elsewhere have either been slimy or greasy, with some water leakage (unfortunate), overly thick casings which feel heavy, and a distinct lack of mushroom filling. These were hands down the best mushroom dumplings I have ever had. Generously filled, these really celebrated the humble mushroom and had a beautiful earthy flavour. The casings were perfectly thin and the sides were seared on the grill, giving them crunchy edges (something you don't usually see!). The dipping sauce was sweet and subtle enough not to overpower the earthiness of the mushrooms. I adored the dipping sauce and used it for other things too (my okra comment above!).

Thai chicken larb

This was one of my favourite dishes of the night. It was a very generously sized portion and was a little like a Pad Thai, but with a twist. This dish consisted of minced chicken, peanuts and lime, topped with red chilli and accompanied by a giant rice crisp. Admittedly it was quite a difficult dish to eat with chopsticks. I used the rice crisps as a sort of scoop but occasionally they would crumble if you stacked them too heavily with chicken larb (guilty!). But I adored the flavours and there was a good combination of textures thanks to the addition of the rice crisp. 

Grilled duck hearts

Yes you are reading this correctly. The hearts of a duck. I was fascinated when I saw these on the menu but wasn't sure if I was brave enough to try them. I eat most things, but I actively try and avoid any organs. But you know what? These were actually really, really tasty. You had to put the fact they were actual hearts to one side, and try and concentrate on the taste. I expected them to be quite chewy, but they weren't tough at all. Admittedly they weren't as soft as say liver, but they tasted more like beef than duck, and weren't too irony like I thought they would be. They were topped with the most beautiful BBQ sauce. When I say that the BBQ sauce was smokey... it was a lot more intense than that... like it had been smoked in a wood chipper or something. I have never before had such a wonderfully smokey, woody flavour. To counter balance the savory element to the dish, the clever Yuu chefs added onions to add some sweetness and colour, and garlic crisps for added crunch. Don't be scared to try this dish - it is beautifully done and worth being brave for!

Tuna tartare

Beautifully presented on individual spoons, the tuna tartare was accompanied by avocado, a spicy coconut miso and topped with onion rice straws. The straws were a nice addition and added a crunch to a softly textured dish. I was a little nervous about this dish as coconut isn't one of my favourite things... however in this context it was more of a coconut milk instead of shredded coconut, and coconut milk I am fine with. This was a lovely light and fresh plate, and was a great palette cleanser. There was a hint of spice which was perfect for me, but the real MVP had to be that tuna which was beautifully soft and melted in your mouth.

Bubble tea

Midway through the meal, we were asked if we wanted to try any of the house bubble teas. Having heard that bubble tea was a bit of marmite drink and having heard more bad things than good, I declined. But the attentive staff at Yuu Kitchen brought two over regardless, and you know what? Like with the duck hearts, I'm glad I gave it a go. With the choice of a black tea or green tea base, and not the tapioca pearls like in a traditional bubble tea, there was a variety of flavours to choose from, including peach, lychee, apple and lemon. The lychee bubble tea was deliciously light and fresh. I couldn't initially taste any tea - just lychees - but I did detect the tea later on when I worked my way further down the glass. My first experience of bubble tea was a peculiar one. Sipped through a suitably girthy straw, every so often you would encounter a bubble not unlike a small grape which would burst in your mouth. That splendor of what-is-in-my-mouth-right-now was much like my first dabblings in popping candy where you can't quite believe the firework display happening in your mouth. The peach bubble tea wasn't as fruity, but the tea flavour was stronger in this one. Whilst I can't guarantee that bubble tea is this nice outside of Yuu Kitchen, I highly recommend the lychee bubble tea if you ever visit!

Grilled broccoli

What a breath of fresh air. I love broccoli and I often order it as a side. However usually I find that a broccoli side dish is steamed and fairly plain and boring. Yuu Kitchen's offering was a far fancier and tastier affair. With sweetness coming from an apple oil dressing and heat coming from the chilli sprinkled on top, there was also a great crunch -  the result of crispy onions and the broccoli having been grilled. Wow.

Crispy rice and salmon

With a crunchy-meets-chewy rice base topped with salmon and a jalapeno dressing, these were pretty as a picture. Unfortunately I couldn't eat very many of these as I was defeated by the heat of the jalapenos. But from what I tried, the salmon was beautifully soft. I found these quite big, so there was no dainty way of eating these. I do think the salmon and jalapeno topping would be better suited to a tostada chip - like the ones I had at their launch night - to make these a little easier to eat. To me, these were like an elevated version of avocado toast and I don't mind that one little bit (I could eat avo toast for breakfast, lunch AND dinner quite happily). However the addition of salmon, chives and the rice base made it extra special.

Baby back ribs

One of my highlights of the menu - I just wish these came out earlier when I was less full! But having said that, I did manage to polish them off despite being so full ;) ...a testament to really good plate of ribs! These were the smallest, daintiest ribs I ever did eat and the meat literally fell off of the bone in the most satisfying of ways. Flavoured with an Asian BBQ sauce, these weren't smoky like I am used with traditional ribs, but instead had more of a sticky sweet quality to them, without being too sweet. The spring onions and sesame seeds gave a lovely added crunch, and the chilli, an added fiery kick. Unlike ribs I have ever had before, I was blown away by this dish.

Coconut cake with ginger

I'll be honest, at this point I was far too full for dessert. But smelling this when it came out, soon changed my mind! I will never forget that beautiful buttery, vanilla smell. Very generously sized, it was quite an intimidating sight to see a portion that big when you feel that full, however the cake was nicely textured and light as a feather. I clearly loved it as I cleared the whole plate! The cake came out warm - a nice little surprise! - and was vanilla based containing desiccated coconut. I'm not really a fan of coconut, but it was so subtlety used here, the balance was perfect and it wasn't too sweet. The cake was accompanied by a ginger biscuit ice cream which gave a little heat and was a nice touch. The MVP of the plate was the cake though - never before have I had such a beautifully soft and light sponge.

Thank you so much to Yuu Kitchen and sous chef William for having me and making me feel so welcome. Every visit to Yuu is a delight and I will be returning soon for a bowl of the Thai chicken larb and your fluffy bao buns (both of which I have heavily craving lately!). See Yuu soon!

* my meal at Yuu Kitchen was complimentary in exchange for a review, however as ever, all thoughts and opinions are my own!

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