If you’re craving sushi, you can certainly go to Yumi in Sea Bright for sparkling fresh fish, but you’ll be missing out on their artfully plated, complex hot and cold dishes, which is really where this Pan-Asian restaurant soars. Yes, there is an abundance of sushi and sashimi, and myriad exotic rolls, too. However, be sure to order some of their intricate preparations from the expansive regular menu, as well as the large listing of specials.
A starter of Octopus Carpaccio ($18) was almost too pretty to eat. Paper-thin slices of tender octopus were dressed with savory roasted garlic oil, crispy sprigs of fried cilantro, and sesame seeds. A simple preparation, but one that showed off all of the flavors on the plate. Excellent!
Another favorite of the table was Chicken in Lettuce Cups ($11); a mound of finely diced, sautéed white meat chicken, toasted pine nuts, hoisin sauce on the side and four large, crisp romaine lettuce leaves which allow diners to spoon out the chicken mixture onto the lettuce, paint with hoisin and roll the lettuce into a tidy, delicious bundle, with lots of textural interest and an interplay of sweet and savory.
A very popular dish is Pan-Seared Rice Crispy Tuna ($18), six warm, crunchy cubes of rice which are firm on the outside and tender on the inside, topped with thin slices of tuna and a wafer-thin disc of jalapeño pepper; the plate was ringed with an eye-catching arc of colors: bright green chive oil sauce, light green wasabi vinaigrette, and brown spicy kabayaki sauce (a light, sweet soy-based sauce frequently seen on cooked eel). The cubes are drawn through the rainbow of sauces to provide a light, delicious coating. The combination of flavors and textures was truly memorable.
After eating this, a special of Madai with Carmelized Tomato ($16), a thick piece of sea bream, topped with a bit of cooked tomato and finished with a dollop of onion aioli was indeed flavor ful, but somewhat soft and monochromatic texturally.
Warm Three Mushroom Salad ($13), was a pleasant surprise. A mix of meaty shitakes, enokis and lion’s mane (a large, white shaggy mushroom said to have beneficial health effects), perfectly cooked, dressed with a lemony vinaigrette, and plated with fresh salad greens, made for a light, tasty dish.
Two fun preparations, Tuna Taco and Tuna Pizza, were both more serious endeavors than their names would suggest. The taco ($16) chunks of raw tuna, cabbage slaw, in a crackly wonton shell, with a side of very credible guacamole, was quite enjoyable. Tuna Sashimi Pizza ($16) was built on a crisp scallion pancake, the dices of raw tuna streaked with Japanese mayo, drizzled with that spicy kabayaki sauce, a wasabi vinaigrette and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. A wonderful blend of lush tuna, a bit of spice and a crusty “pizza” base. Yum!
An entrée-sized portion of Pan-Seared Black Sea Bass ($18) sported crackling skin, was garnished with fat, shelled edamame beans and served with a very tasty eggplant puree that married quite well with the fish; it was special indeed.
A justifiably popular dish is the Miso Black Cod ($16); two thick slabs of perfectly juicy seared black cod (sablefish), with a silky, velvety feel in the mouth, this was my dish of the night. Served simply with an almost sweet, and not-too spicy miso sauce, and a pickled Black Seaweed “salad” to add toothsome crunch, it was a perfect dish in every respect.
What to drink? This BYO’s food merits some of your better bottles. We opened a 2015 Gérard Boulay Sancerre Comtesse, a French white made in the Loire Valley from the sauvignon blanc grape; flinty and rich, but not heavy- handed, it provided the equivalent of a palate-cleansing spritz of lemon for many of the dishes. This is a producer worth seeking out, as he has multiple bottlings, which are all far above most other Sancerres. Not inexpensive, but superior and memorable in all respects.
We also brought along an Austrian white: 2015 F.X. Pichler Steiner tal Riesling Smaragd, a honeyed, lush wine from a top producer, which pairs beautifully with this kind of food.
We were interested primarily in seafood on the night of our visit, but for meat lovers, there is section of the menu which offers up dishes made from the prized wagyu beef and equally famed Kobe beef.
It should be apparent at this point that Yumi is so much more than a basic Japanese eatery serving sushi, sashimi and rolls. This is Pan-Asian haute cuisine, in a very creative, cutting-edge style, served in a simple, modern storefront. The plates are pretty, the staff gracious and knowledgeable. Come for the sushi, but be adventuresome with some other dishes – you won’t regret it!
1120 Ocean Ave., Sea Bright
Bob Sacks, longtime food and wine buff, reviews restaurants in this bimonthly column. Follow him on Instagram @dinnerwithbob. Read his reviews here.
This article was first published in the May 31-June 7, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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