I met up at Yusho a few nights ago with my photography guru Yellow Truffle, where the two of us geeked out while he tutored me -- yet again -- about cameras and shooting. I chose Yusho as our meeting spot because I'd heard some really promising things about their bar program. Not only did this thread, started by Hombre de Acero
intrigue me but one of my favorite bartenders, whose opinion I really trust, had strongly recommended checking it out. Those leads turned out to be nothing less than solid gold.
As I tend to do, I arrived in advance of my companion so I could hang out at the bar for a while. It was clear from my initial glimpse of the cocktail menu, that this was a serious deal. Alex, who runs the cocktail program, has a wealth of knowledge and ability. The 10-drink menu was distinctive and sophisticated, and reflected a knowledge and fluency of spirits that is all-too-rare in our still up and coming local bar scene. I was immediately struck by the number of house-made ingredients -- bitters, tinctures, garnishes -- that were in these drinks. The spirits used in the cocktails were equally impressive -- not exactly rare, but uncommon and wisely chosen. As I chatted Alex up, he explained to me quite articulately and passionately why he'd built each of the drinks with the ingredients that were in them. I found this wonderful. As it should be, it was exactly the same as a traditional chef talking about how a particular dish came to be. Throughout the evening, Alex shared tastes with us of all sorts of things he's working on, including the Soju cocktail described above. It's known as Shu Hai (correction: Yusho calls it Chuhai), which is a carbonated, soju-based beverage. His version also includes green tea, lemon juice and cane sugar. In a typical rendition, soda is added to impart the carbonation, sometimes even in a mix-your-own situation, where all the ingredients are served separately. In Alex's version the entire cocktail is mixed and then carbonated all together, which gives it an especially evervescent quality. It was also extremely well-balanced -- tart but nicely sweet without being overbearing.
I climbed up on the relatively high, backless barstool and got adjusted as quickly as I could. As was discussed a bit in the thread I linked above, since food prep also takes place behind the bar -- the entire kitchen is there -- the height of the bar must be above a certain height so that a sneeze guard is not required. It took a few moments to get used to it but it was fine. In fact, we ended up spending our entire stay on those stools at the bar, foregoing a traditional table. I'm 300+ pounds with 2 artificial hips, so if I can hang there for over 5 hours, anyone can.
. . .The Bar at Yusho
Beginning of the evening, around 5:30 pm.
Being a fan of American whiskey, I started out with a Two Tribes . . .Two Tribes
- Redemption rye, palm sugar, cardamarro, barrel-aged stone fruit bitters
I loved this drink because it was very well-balanced and the palm sugar imparted a distinctive flavor, that went very well with the rye.Pork Rinds
- salt, nori, togarashi
I didn't see these on the menu but Alex served them to me gratis. They were extraordinarily light and delicate. They were just cooked and still popping a little bit when they were served to me.Pork Rinds
I loved the addictive spice mixture on these rinds. Great stuff.Three Arrows
- Whipper Snapper whiskey, barolo chinato, fenugreek bitters (Alex, screen right)
Next up, I had this innovative riff on a Manhattan. I loved that it was fruit forward but finished very dry and slightly bitter. The flavor progressed and evolved all the way through the sip.Cate's Esters
- Lemonhart demerara rum, lime, cane sugar, orange & myrrh bitters
This daiquiri variation uses Lemonhart 151, one of my favorites and one of the most distinctive rums I know.
Yellow Truffle arrived and we had a few more cocktails. I'm not entirely sure what he ordered, and some of the ones I ordered were "Dealer's Choice," (a great option with a bartender of this skill level) so please forgive the lack of descriptions for some of the shots that follow. Suffice it to say, the cocktails were "effective"
but they were also tasty and well-balanced. With just a couple of cues for spirit or flavor preference, Alex would come back with something that just nailed the request over and over again. He was in "the zone."Dealer's Choice CocktailDealer's Choice CocktailAlderman's Hodo Hodo
- Johnny Drum 101 bourbon, gomme syrup, acid phosphate, aromatic bitters, soda
There are a few schools of thought about acid phosphate, why it was once popular and isn't as much these days. Without veering off into total geekery, it's very interesting to have the acidic component of a cocktail not impart any flavor of its own. That allows a lot more freedom to create flavor using only the other ingredients.Gin & Tonic
- Ransom Old Tom gin, house tonic, lime
Brilliant use of Ransom, another one of my faves!(not entirely sure this is the right pic but the house G&T is excellent)
After quite a long time of kibbutzing -- between ourselves and with Alex -- it was finally time to order some food from the menu of proprietor/chef, and Charlie Trotter alum, Matthias Merges. The savory side of his creative, izakaya/yakitori-inspired menu is divided into 2 sections: "grilled birds" and "land & sea." Similar to what was posted above by deesher, there wasn't a dish I didn't like. All were at least good, and several were excellent. I thought a few items were a little too sweet for my palate but after the number of cocktails we had, you can take that for what it's worth. Here are photos of most (all?) of what we ate (along with a few other cocktails we had along the way) . . .2x Fried Chicken
- kanzuri, matcha, limeDealer's Choice CocktailBeef Tongue
- garlic, sombal, daikonPork Belly
- kimchi, black garlic, sunchokeChicken Wings
- bonito salt, lime, thai chileQuail Eggs
- charred kombu, broccoli rabe, corianderSea Urchin
- nori, shisho, buddha's handDealer's Choice CocktailDuck Confit Takoyaki
- chile, bonito, scallionsSalmon
- orange teriyaki, arugula, cedarChicken Liver
- black sesame, yuzu, pickled shallotsBaconian Cipher
- Herencia resposado tequila, vermouth di torino, gran classico, tamarind bitters, grilled cloveSweetbreads
- umeboshi bbq sauce, frisee, toasted soy beansMaitake Mushroom
- egg, vinaigrette, dashi geleeSteam Bun
- short ribs, bok choy kimchi, peanutsThe Logan "Poser" Ramen
- crispy pig's tail, hen egg, cucumber, thai chile
An homage to David Chang
I have to single this dish out as a real winner. We were very full by this time but I loved every component of it -- broth, noodles, and oh, that crispy pig tail. Yowza!Bar
About 11:30 p.m. That's a wrap.
Yusho is a place where every single detail seems to have been thoroughly considered and well thought-out. There was a comfortable harmony running through the space, beverages, food, service and overall hospitality. As a diner, it's a real pleasure to walk into an establishment where such care is so obvious. As a bar fan, Yusho has immediately ascended to the top of my destination list. The food was terrific and destination-worthy, too. As much as we sampled, there still seems an exciting world to explore here. I think this place is going to be a huge hit.
If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses --Henry Ford
Without wood, barbecue wouldn’t be barbecue -- Aaron Franklin
Freedom demands that those in power allow others to think for themselves.
I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try --Todd Snider