Operating a stone’s throw away from the bright lights and long queues of another modern Asian restaurant which has continuously received diner reviews, Yu-U is a good Japanese restaurant that stays hidden behind a heavy iron door leading to a space below street level.
I have tried walking up for dinner on two previous occassions but it had always been booked out for dinner, even on weekdays. I decided to come here for lunch and noted the busy service session so I would highly recommend making reservations for lunch too. The internal design leans towards dimmed lighting supported by the street level windows near the ceiling. There are several tables on the main floor with seats along the centrally located teppanyaki cooking area. There are also private dining areas hidden to the side which you will discover by navigating four small steps after removing your footwear.
Previous attempts to pictorially document the dishes on offer here were met with requests not to do so, followed by insistence on confirming their deletion from the memory card. Talk about being up-tight. But there are means and ways.
I think the lunch set offers up-matched brilliance in value for money at $18. I ordered the beancurd which was tofu in shitake mushroom sauce. The fried outer layer was soggy-ded out by the thick sauce but this wasn’t too much of a problem because of the thinness of the fried layer. If it has been any thicker, it would have felt like a block in the mouth. The tofu is not the silken sort, it’s denser and has more body so this texture was well matched by the mushroom sauce. The seasoned rice cost $2 more and this was tastey but I’m not convinced this is worth paying more for. Plain good ole steamed rice would suffice.Wish they offered more than just a slice of orange to finish.
I double downed this time by ordering a second main of the pork katsu for extra $12. This was prepared very nicely with a thin crumbed layer on the outside, with juicy pork cooked to perfection. The side of shredded vegetables is a must to have with the pork as it adds a fresh element and crunch in the mouth.
I also tried the salmon teriyaki and the pan-fried chicken thigh fillets and both were of good quality.
Overall, Yu-U offers a relaxed atmosphere for lunch which is extremely competitively priced for a restaurant located in the Melbourne CBD. It is worth the effort to make a booking for lunch or dinner. Service is timely and cordial, and the one aspect that should be improved is the drinks menu (better quality wines would be appropriate to match the quality of food on offer).