Yamato Japanese Steakhouse: Still a tradition in Johnson City

Mystery Diner • Sep 23, 2016 at 8:00 AM

My dining partner and I spent most of Thursday afternoon getting ready for the Tree Streets Yard Sale. We have friends in that part of town participating in this year’s event, and they graciously allowed us to bring over some “family treasures” that had been hanging around the house too long for us to endure any further.

What with searching through closets and the attic for likely items (my old raccoon coat, for instance) we got dirty, musty and sweaty in roughly equal amounts. Also, because of the persistent post-Labor Day heat wave, my dining partner wanted no part of anything having to do with cooking supper, so I wisely offered to take us both over to Yamato Japanese Steakhouse. After cleaning ourselves up, of course.

Yamato Japanese Steakhouse & Seafood is another of those hidden gems of the Johnson City restaurant scene, this despite being one of the last remaining occupied storefronts in the former West Market St. Food City complex. Though it looks like they have the parking lot all to themselves, Yamato continues to survive and to thrive in their current location. Opening their doors in 1998, Yamato has served this end of Johnson City’s Med-Tech Corridor, winning several restaurant awards in the process.

The restaurant itself has a typical storefront arrangement, with two dining areas running from the front door to the order counter, separated by a low-walled walkway. The walls are decorated with some tasteful Japanese prints and mementos, the tables and chairs look well-worn but comfortably sturdy.

Kaitlyn, our helpful young server conducted us to the table and got our drink orders.

Yamato does entrees and side orders hibachi style, as in your favorite chosen meat or other protein accompanied by sweet carrots (stir-fried zucchini & onions, broccoli or mushrooms are a dollar extra) and a good-sized grill flipper full of either white or fried rice. You can order up to three or more protein sources, with a corresponding increase in cash outlay of course.

My dining partner decided that the sesame chicken dinner ($7.99) looked to be the best choice. She chose a bowl of clear sipping soup instead of a house salad, fried rice, and zucchini & onions instead of the carrots ($1 extra).

I ordered the double combination dinner ($11.99) with yakiniku (shredded beef) and spicy pepper scallops (add $3), a salad, the carrots and a side of grilled mushrooms ($1 extra) for a total of $15.99.

Kaitlyn was very attentive and had our made-to-order meals in front of us within fifteen minutes, despite handling a steady stream of to-go order pickups from families, sport enthusiasts and health care employees.

As noted in these pages, my dining partner likes to “share,” as she calls it. So, if there is something on my plate that looks particularly scrumptious to her, it winds up immediately speared and on her plate or, as here, swallowed whole. The “scrumptious” this time, a spicy pepper scallop slice.

For their scallops, Yamato uses the more robust sea scallops, rather than the diminutive bay scallop variety. A little larger than a 25 cent coin, the sea scallop is filleted to a half inch thickness, then grilled just so with Yamato’s signature spicy pepper seasoning. Prepared thus, your bite of the peppered scallops gets you bitten right back, but not disagreeably so. The spicy pepper has a nicely residual heat that arrives shortly and more to the back of the palate then builds with each successive bite. Though not as sinus - clearing as wasabi paste, the experience can make your eyes water, as my dining partner found out. Truly, some things are best learned through personal experience.

Meantime, my yakiniku made a nice counterpoint to all that spiciness going on with the scallops, and the fried rice was quite fresh, providing a nutty flavor undertone to the dish. Though the sweetness of the carrots was at times overpowering, their use as fire extinguishers when needed was much appreciated.

Once her normal respiration was restored, my dining partner offered me some of her sesame chicken. Unlike other hibachi-style restaurants that use chicken thigh meat, Yamato uses chicken tenders sautéed in their special teriyaki sauce, then cooked with sesame seeds. You can add some of the Yamato version of shrimp sauce, but it really isn’t necessary. Their meals need no additional help, sauce-based or otherwise.

As we were leaving, my dining partner noticed a placard in the Yamato front window. It read:

“Go to our Facebook page for the secret word. Take an additional 10% off your meal.”

In business for eighteen years, Yamato Japanese Steakhouse & Seafood is keeping in step with technology, as well as time.

Yamato Japanese Steakhouse & Seafood

509 N. State of Franklin Road, Suite 11

Johnson City


Mon-Thu 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Fri 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Sat 12 noon – 9 p.m.

Sun Closed

Available on Facebook

Credit cards accepted.

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