POSTED ON JANUARY 23, 2013:
An Asian Affair
Explore Eastern fare with flair
In downtown Tulsa, one restaurant reigns supreme when it comes to pan-Asian cuisine and sushi -- Yokozuna. On the corner of East 2nd Street and South Detroit Avenue, Yokozuna is the glitzy go-to for a pregame dinner and cocktails. The sleek interior mimics the sophisticated lines and understated Japanese tradition. With several tables, a gorgeous bar, and cozy booths, Yokozuna was the perfect location for my sexy samurai and I to get our sushi fix.
Yokozuna has really raised the bar, so to speak, with its collection of delicious cocktails. A nice selection of Asian beers, such as Sapporo and Tsingtao, couples with a wonderful collection of sakes. But the cocktails really deserve the buzz. The fan favorite is the Flying Lotus ($8) with Hendrick's Gin, St. Germain, and Cointreau with freshly muddled jalapeño, cucumber, and lemon juice. Don't let the jalapeño dissuade you, it really is the perfect complement to the gin and cucumber. Other cocktails of note are the Yamakaze ($9) and the Poison Ivy ($8) which is a lot like the Flying Lotus minus the jalapeño.
Yokozuna has a great appetizer menu including Vegetarian Summer Rolls ($5), Gyozo Dumplings ($6) and Sticky Buns (2 for $6). Every Monday from 5pm to 10pm these little guys are only $1 each. We decided to nosh on one of each -- the pork and the Sriracha chicken. The buns are stark white and a bit spongy, which pair perfectly with the succulent pork with hoisin sauce and the lightly fried chicken with its sweet/spicy sauce. Definitely worth $1 each, these buns go great with an ice cold Sapporo.
They also have a variety of soups, like traditional miso ($3 cup, $6 bowl), but the Pork Belly Ramen with Fried Quail Egg ($13) stopped me in my tracks. A mammoth bowl with a spicy chicken and pork broth, cilantro, red onion, fresnos, and lime arrived with healthy slices of pork belly and a delicate quail egg lounging on top. Sure, you think "ramen" and memories of starving college days emerge. Rest assured this is not the pre-packaged ramen noodles of yore.
The broth was a complex mixture of subtle flavors with the additional aromatics of the cilantro, lime and spicy fresnos adding heat. But what made these ordinary noodles extraordinary was the addition of the slices of sinfully luscious pork belly and the richness of the small fried quail egg. Pork belly is bacon's more sophisticated brother and the rich flavor filled the broth and twirled blithely with the noodles. This was truly the stand-out of the evening!
There are many Asian favorites on Yoko's Kitchen Menu, like Pad Thai with chicken or fried tofu ($12) or General Tso's Chicken ($12). But we were more interested in the Sushi Menu this evening. Our first catch was the Ika Salad ($6) with marinated squid and sliced cucumbers. The sesame oil added the perfect flavor to the dainty strips of squid and the cool cucumbers complemented the briny undertones of the dish. A totally addictive dish!
Yokozuna's sushi menu is filled to the brim with fish and filling combinations to suit anyone's taste. Some are a little far-fetched as I enjoy a more classic, simple roll. But I threw caution to the wind and ordered the Geisha's Demise ($9).
Seared yellowfin tuna, avocado, wasabi, and imitation crab are rolled in Ichimi pepper with sweet evil sauce. You can't go wrong with yellowfin tuna and avocado, but the outer layer of rice was rolled in a dry spice. It was a bitter heat that got caught in the throat, and the syrupy sweet evil sauce did little to mitigate the overwhelmingly bitter Ichimi pepper.
Any sushi joint worth its weight offers a Chef's Choice ($16) option on its menu. This is really the best way to order sushi, because you are giving the sushi chef full artistic license. At Yokozuna they have a really great lineup of sushi chefs, so I knew we were in good hands. I asked for a roll that would "wow me!" The roll that arrived did just that.
The flavors were so complex, the fish so fresh, and the sauce was unlike anything I've had before. I committed one of the ultimate sins -- I asked chef to divulge her secrets. The chef actually wrote down the ingredients, a favor I do not overlook. The roll contained spicy seared ahi, asparagus, caramelized red onion, avocado, and jalapeño topped with hamachi -- a buttery yellowtail fish with pink flesh and high oil content. When at Yokozuna, you are in capable hands, so I highly recommend letting the chef "wow" you.
Again, keeping it simple is how I roll, and the Spicy Tuna Roll ($6.50) usually hits the spot. Unfortunately, this is where I must rant a bit about the unseemly underbelly of the sushi biz -- the use of "tuna scrape." Tuna scrape is a cheap, mushy substitute that many sushi establishments use for their less-expensive rolls. It is literally leftover flesh scraped from the carcass; the texture and taste are abysmal. It was a huge disappointment to find this subpar fish product in Yokozuna's roll.
One can fill up fast with all the rice contained in rolls, so it's nice to offset with nigiri -- succulent slices of fresh fish. We chose the three-piece Escolar ($8). This fish is white and firm with an almost buttery mouth feel. It is most akin to a scallop. But here's a helpful hint. This fish is somewhat notorious for causing some less than desirable side effects, so no matter how delicious it may be, keep those servings to below six ounces.
Over the years, Yokozuna has earned its right as a downtown mainstay for delicious Asian cuisine and craft cocktails. The ambience is unmatched, the wait staff is friendly, and the sushi chefs are skillfully creative.
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