Originating in Japan, YAYOI has expanded into U.S. territory with two locations in California and now, a Plano location. Opened in May, the Japanese restaurant has been drawing crowds with its more modest approach to comfort food. With recently added lunch offerings, many diners will find themselves enjoying a timeworn tradition brought into a new light.
YAYOI’s entire dining experience is focused on teishoku-style dining, which means the entire meal is set at once. The main course is accompanied by a bowl of soup and two side dishes, typically, the house-perfected special rice and a variety of salads, pickled dishes or noodles. This is what general manager Aiko Kawase refers to as Ichiju san-sai or “one soup, three dishes.” Serving the meals this way intends to balance not only all of the macro and micronutrients of the day but all of the flavors on the tongue.
Selections on the lunch menu are focused on quick and flavorful comfort foods. Chicken nanban, a house-made battered and fried chicken thigh garnished with a creamy tartar sauce, is a customer favorite. It’s quickly followed by salt mackerel, salmon don, BBQ eel and the classic sukiyaki, with most mains packing a rich, unctuous punch.
“We definitely wanted to stay away from the sushi stereotype,” Aiko states. In a world of spiraling meal portion sizes packed with calories and empty in nutrients, YAYOI is dead set on breaking the mold that a balanced meal has to be boring or oversized. Its meals come in reasonable sizes, and with the wide variety of dishes, it can be a surprising amount of flavor packed into one tray.
Even still, guests may be hesitant to break out of their dietary molds. Aiko recalls a common phrase she would hear from time to time: “Oh, it’s not enough!” But she explains, “This is portioned out, this is the way it’s supposed to be.” Portion sizes certainly aren’t microscopic as some customers may proclaim, but they aren’t 10,000-calorie gut busters either. They tread the line perfectly between not so small as to leave you in search for the last office donut, and not so heavy as to jump start the mid-day nap.
Peppered with open bench seating and flooded with natural light, the restaurant has a refreshing décor of light woods, neutral colors and polished stone.
For a wind down after work, YAYOI is revamping its bar. Thinning out the wine selection and beefing up a cocktail menu to pair with dishes are just the start. It also presents a wide selection of sake, and even offers tasting flights for guests looking to supplement the menu with an even broader stroke of choice.
Many of YAYOI’s lunch dishes start at only $8. For a quick pop in at lunch, getting a balanced meal that not only tastes delicious but makes diners feel better for eating it is more than a fair value at under 10 bucks. While many don’t consider waistlines when dining out, Yayoi is setting the bar for what good food should look like, and rejecting the assumption that comfort food has to come at a steep health cost. Aiko makes a bold claim for her restaurant, “Eat at Yayoi and live longer.”YAYOI >
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