When you hear the words “Japanese food,” what exactly comes to mind? Chances are your answer is sushi.
It’s undoubtedly Japan’s most iconic dish, and for good reason. But Japanese food is so much more than raw fish and hand rolls. There’s yakatori (delicious skewered chicken), udon (thick noodles in savory broth), soba (thin buckwheat noodles), ramen noodles, pickled vegetables, chicken cooked in teriyaki sauce and a variety of other dishes.
Luckily, this traditional, home-style food is available at Dorobanti restaurant YUKI.
Located on Putul lui Zamfir street, the restaurant has a rustic entrance. Upon entering, waiters greet you with the Japanese welcome, “irrashaimase,” while bowing. The staff wear traditional clothing, and the interior is adorned with Japanese paintings and wood carvings, giving the place a nice ambiance.
Owner Ichiro Yuki (pictured: back row, third from right) opened the restaurant in 2015, and was nice enough to answer some of our questions before we sat down to eat. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What inspired you to open this restaurant?
A: “I wanted the city of Bucharest to have, and enjoy, an authentic Japanese restaurant that would truly represent our Japanese culture in all aspects – food, service and atmosphere.”
Q: What do you think makes your food different/special compared to other Japanese restaurants in Bucharest?
A: “I understand that sushi is an exotic and catchy type of food for people from outside Japan. But, sushi is NOT everyday food for most Japanese people. YUKI only serves Japanese home dishes that parents prepare for family. It also means that the majority of Japanese restaurants in Japan serve something similar to ours. For your information, only 5% of all restaurants in Tokyo are sushi restaurants. We also cook traditional ingredients with natural (non-chemical) condiments in traditional, slow methods. This is in fact is very rare with Japanese restaurants outside [of] Japan and also becoming rare in Japan lately unfortunately.”
Q: What was one of the hardest obstacles in opening this restaurant? How did you overcome it?
A: “In the beginning, it was very difficult to help my staff understand Japanese ways of doing things, in the kitchen and in the service. We made some guidelines and also tried training. The chef from Japan and I tried to play role models ourselves at the site, too. At the end, we all learn by doing. Secondly, there are so many more rules about how to run a restaurant (or any business) in Romania, compared to Japan. My chef and I were shocked. We simply had to adapt to the local culture and rules over time when it comes to this obstacle. Lastly but probably most importantly, it is difficult to procure ingredients that a Japanese kitchen commonly uses. For Japanese specific condiments we buy from a Japanese food distributor in Europe. Fresh ocean fish is rather difficult to come by in Romania, and no one offers the variety of fish that we wish to see. We work with two suppliers who have better understanding of fish, but the variety is still very limited, unfortunately.”
Despite the challenges, it’s clear Yuki is doing well. The restaurant was packed when we visited, and there’s always a reservation list. Now, onto the food!
Above, the Wafu Salad, took only a few minutes to come to the table. Crispy salad leaves, mixed with crunchy, dried algae gave it a nice texture, and the tangy vinaigrette added a lot of salty flavor. For someone who doesn’t normally like salad, this was a very good dish to order.
Next up was the Oboro Tofu, which came on an ornate plate, with various add-ins on the side. It was very creamy, and had a distinct umami flavor when eaten with soy sauce. This is the only place we’ve ever found homemade tofu in Romania, which definitely makes it worth a try.
Our last appetizer, the Nasu No Age-Bitasshi, consisting of mainly lightly fried eggplant and other thinly sliced vegetables, like carrots, served atop a savory Japanese-style broth called “dashi.” It had a salty flavor that matched well with the buttery eggplant. For a vegetable dish, this was so much better than expected.
As for the first main dish, the Chicken Curry Rice was a real crowd-pleaser. The smell and flavor of curry was aromatic and very delicious. The white rice was also tasty, and perfectly cooked. The whole grains in it added to the texture, and combined with the vegetables, chicken and sauce, it made for a very flavorful main course, that represented traditional Japanese comfort food.
Finally, there was the cod fish. Not part of the regular menu, this dish was ordered from the “chef’s specials” menu. The fish was perfectly cooked, with a very buttery texture, and was surprisingly flavorful, considering there was no sauce, making it a healthy option. Although the salad wasn’t very appetizing, it added color to the plate.
To sum up the experience here at YUKI, it was a great journey! Not only was the food wonderful and uniquely authentic, but the staff was also respectful and polite.
Bite Rating: 5/5
Address: 5 Strada Puțul lui Zamfir, Sector 1
Phone: +40 761 341 667 (Reservations suggested)
12:00-15:00 Lunch menu
18:00-23:00 Dinner menu
(22:00 last order for kitchen)
13:00-23:30 Dinner menu
(22:30 last order for kitchen)