The restaurateur is Richard Nguru, formerly head chef and general manager of Atlanta’s Kiku Japanese Restaurant. With partner Hojung Kim, Nguru has created Yuimaru Kitchen as a new experience in traditional Japanese cookery using the freshest ingredients of the highest quality in a menu of diverse teppan and sushi creations.
Yuimaru Kitchen can be found at Franklin Terrace in north Johnson City, next to Barnes & Noble. The restaurant’s outside décor is subtle and minimalist. You enter a spacious foyer and then the teppanyaki dining area. Further in brings you to the well-appointed sushi bar area having both counter and table seating. Décor here is dark woods with bamboo with understated wall treatments and sturdy tables & chairs. Restrooms can be found to the left of the liquor and strong drinks bar. Further back is a spacious enclosed porch and an outdoor patio dining area that opens onto a lawn and wooded area that separates those dining al fresco from the busy traffic on North State of Franklin Road.
It was my dining partner’s sharp eyes that detected an advertising flyer announcing the grand opening of Yuimaru Kitchen, along with some very attractive coupons for those wishing to dine there. What interested me was Yuimaru Kitchen’s offer of half-price sushi on Wednesdays. A further discussion found us setting a Wednesday lunch date for just the two of us.
Fried Chicken Nanban: Ordering from Yuimaru’s kitchen menu, my dining partner asked our server Katy to bring her an order of the Fried Chicken Nanban ($13). This dish is termed yoshoku in Japanese, meaning Western food adapted to Japanese tastes. Here, the Western food is fried chicken as prepared in Kyushu, southern-most of the Japanese home islands. The chicken is deep-fried, coated with a nanban sauce (mirin and soy sauces, vinegar, sugar and sea kelp,) then served with Yuimaru’s fried rice, Asian slaw, and the house tartar sauce. The meal comes with clear soup and salad, the salad course acting as palate cleanser. My dining partner enjoyed the soup and the salad, though the tartar sauce for the chicken had too much salt. Otherwise, she was very pleased with her lunch.
Maki Sushi Rolls: Yuimaru Kitchen’s menu offers a panoply of sushi and sashimi, as well as several sushi bar entrees that come with soup and salad. Taking advantage of the Wednesday half-price sushi special, I ordered just the sushi in three different maki-style rolls: spicy tuna ($7), salmon skin ($7) and shrimp tempura ($6); $10 total at the special rate. The three rolls arrived at table on a flat porcelain platter, with ribbons of golden pickled ginger artfully arranged around a glowering daub of green wasabi paste. The spicy tuna roll was quite good; raw, flaked tuna that was just spicy enough, wrapped first in nori then sticky rice. With a light dusting of toasted sesame seeds, my spicy tuna roll needed nothing else to improve its flavor or texture.
I’ve had shrimp tempura maki where the entire roll (not just the shrimp itself) was dipped in pankoed tempura batter and then deep-fried. Yuimaru Kitchen tempura’s deep fries the (quite large) shrimp separately, then adds julienned cucumber, avocado and unagi sauce, allowing you to enjoy every element of the roll itself. For my third maki roll I chose salmon skin as much to judge how Yuimaru Kitchen lived up to its “freshest ingredients/highest quality” slogan. Salmon skin is probably one of the most labor-intensive of sushi ingredients. To start with, the skin is quite perishable, so it must be prepared quickly. After removing the scales, the salmon skin is carefully peeled from the salmon filet using a very sharp knife, leaving a thin layer of the flesh attached to the skin. After breading with seasoned flour, the salmon skin is fried over high heat until crispy, then sliced into thin strips. To build the maki roll, fried salmon skin strips are added to the cucumber and avocado before being wrapped in nori paper, rolled in sticky rice and sprinkled with sesame seeds. As prepared, salmon skin has a smoky, decidedly un-fishy flavor, with a texture and crunch reminiscent of aged bacon sliced wafer-thin and delicious.
The Bottom Line: My dining partner and I enjoyed our lunch at Yuimaru Kitchen. The dining atmosphere is pleasant inside and out, Katy’s service was both friendly and helpful, my partner was very pleased with her meal while my sushi trio of spicy tuna, tempura’ed shrimp and delicate salmon skin could not have been better. As we were leaving, my dining partner advised me that Yuimaru Kitchen would be a great place to invite the rest of the dine-around bunch out for supper. Stay tuned for further details.
3020 Franklin Terrace, Suite No. 6
Tuesday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
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Credit cards accepted