First Impressions visits dining spots in the region that are new or have undergone recent transitions. Have a candidate for First Impressions? Email us at email@example.com.
And now let’s head over the causeway to Davis, the home of the Aggies. Students who recently started the quarter at UC Davis and townfolk alike have a new downtown eating option, one that’s a break from the typical Thai food options and sushi buffets geared for student loan budgets.
Yakitori Yuchan opened in mid-September, taking over a downtown Davis space formerly occupied by a Beach Hut Deli. Unlike the teriyaki bowl and all-you-can eat sushi spots that typify Japanese food in downtown Davis, Yakitori Yuchan is modeled closer to an izakaya, or a Japanese pub that specializes in small-plate foods.
Yakitori Yuchan focuses on grilled, skewered meats, vegetables and seafood. But will this approach appeal to the folks who might otherwise head to the nearby Mikuni for Japanese eats? Here’s what you can expect thus far:
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Menu: Diners are given two menus. One is a ticket to check off yakitori orders, and the other is the izakaya menu with 15 different small-plate foods, plus noodle options. All foods are ordered a la carte.
Most folks automatically think chicken when it comes to yakitori, and there’s plenty of that here. Options include skewered chicken thighs, breast and even heart and liver for the more adventurous eaters. Some are seasoned with salt or tare – a sweet sauce used in Japanese grilling – and diners can also opt for mustard chicken or a wasabi cream that’s slathered on the skewers.
The yakitori menu also includes beef tongue, six different pork options – including pork belly and quail egg with pork – along with a few vegetable and seafood options.
The izakaya menu features snacky Japanese foods such as chicken wings, tofu dengaku (pan-fried tofu), curried kabocha (deep fried pumpkin with curry) and various deep-fried fish. Yakitori Yuchan also cooks a small selection of rice and noodle dishes, including two types of ramen (pork or soy sauce-based stock) and soba.
Price point: An order of yakitori comes with two skewers, save for the shrimp, and costs between $4 and $6. A five-way sampler of chicken yakitori costs $12.
Nothing on the menu costs more than $13, and the bulk of items on the izakaya menu are priced between $4 and $7. Place a couple orders of yakitori, add a small plate and a drink, and most diners can leave with a bill around $20.
Ambiance: The brightly colored Japanese murals and clank of people toasting with sake make for a fairly lively atmosphere. Diners can also see directly into the kitchen via a window, where bustling cooks grill the yakitori orders and prepare the small plates. It all adds up to an active vibe.
Drinks: Along with beer and wine, Yakitori Yuchan features a dozen sake options on its beverage menu and 13 choices of sochu, the distilled Japanese spirit. That sochu is also used to make chuhai cocktails, including a yuzu sour and oolong sour.
Service: Servers were friendly and brisk to take and deliver orders. They also had to field a number of questions from diners, who needed some guidance around this a la carte menu or needed to be told that miso soup wasn’t on the menu. But Yakitori Yuchan still feels in new restaurant mode. A number of dishes weren’t available during a recent visit, and the hours are a bit odd for a perpetually hungry populace (open 6 p.m. daily and closed Mondays; no lunch).
First impressions: A fine addition to Japanese cuisine in the greater Sacramento area, with a menu that demands a return visit to try all the different small plates. Now, can Sacramento itself get a yakitori place like this?
Try it if: You want to explore Japanese foods outside the usual bento box and have a hankering for skewered meats.
Forget it if: You expect to order sauce-drenched sushi rolls with funky names, or want a bowl of miso soup.
109 E. St., Davis
Hours: Open 5:30 p.m. daily; closed Mondays
Information: (530) 753-3196