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Aug 21, 2006 05:54 PM

Yu Me Ya - Encinitas

Yu Me Ya
1246 N Coast Highway 101

Closed Mondays, forgot to ask if they are open for lunch.

What a great change of pace from the regular "sushi" and standard
Japanese faire found at most local places. This place definitely fills a huge void in the area for traditional and delicious Japanese Izakaya food, sushi is not their main focus, in fact maybe only five standard rolls are offered. Used to be Wakei Café, nice small cozy space, maybe ten bar seats and eight tables. Totally family run operation, Mom and Dad in the kitchen and the rest of the family running the front of the house. Our server - Yuka, was great, she kept pouring us free samples of various sakes, we had a Shochikubai Kinpaku Gold Flakes and Drunken Whale. They have a great selection of sakes/sochu, proabably 30 or more, most can be ordered by the glass. Bottle of Kubota was only $90, (it's usually quite a bit more than that). A nice beer selection as well, one beer from Osaka I have not tried yet. Echigo was also offered. Menu was extensive, we didn't even get to the third page of offerings or
even the noodle page. I will report back on those next time with pics. We ordered a bottle of one of the premium sakes, $50, don't recall the name, served in cobalt blue Kiriko glasses.

Best part , most prices are $2.95 and $6.95, nothing we had was over $6.95 except the bottle of sake!

House starter of takuan - pickled daikon
String beans with sesame paste – love these things.
Kimpira gobo – this was a house special from Mama-san, not on the menu.
Sunomono salad - cucumber with seaweed.
Avocado and tuna salad - plain with simple greens, nothing special.
Croquettes with curried Japanese vegetables – perfectly fried spheres of potato encasing the veges, star of the evening IMO, they had three other kinds too, can’t wait to try them all!
Nasu with smoked bonito broth - we love eggplant, this was perfect.
Fried Yams with Ume mayonnaise – excellent! They know how to fry here!
Albacore carpaccio – nothing special, simple albacore sashimi with aioli and spicy sauce.
Baked bay scallops - had some great wild mushrooms, very tasty!
Shishitou peppers – these were excellent, I can order plates of these.
Spicy tuna roll – standard spicy tuna, we had to check it out. Sushi rice had good flavor and texture.
Crunchy shrimp roll – had to check this one out as well.
Green tea ice-cream with house made green tea syrup - delicious!

There were so many other things but we were beyond capacity!
Pics next week.

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  1. please report back on the noodle and rice bowl scene! This sounds really promising! I LOVE shishito peppers!

    1. I just checked on hours, no Lunch at this time, only dinner.

      1. thanks for the report pablo....just bought a recipe book called tapas from japan: izakaya recipes, so i will have to check this place out. sounds like a very creative menu. yam with ume sound incredibly appealing, how was the nasu prepared...fried first?

        1 Reply
        1. re: kare_raisu

          Nasu was braised or maybe sauteed, not fried or greasy in anyway.
          I will get a pic next time!

        2. A great and detailed post, Pablo. You must have been taking notes!

          Unfortunately I didn't, and I also didn't take my camera inside when I was there for opening day. It turns out that with the company and the buzz/vibe in the small dining room, I probably would have been too distracted to take pictures anyway!

          So here's my 2 cents worth on Yumeya...

          I've got a good feeling about the long-term viability of this venture. As Pablo says it fills a void in the North County dining scene. As it is, izakayas typically depends on a fairly sizeable Japanese population to support them that I never would have thought one would open up in Encinitas. Yes you'll find many in the Peninsula Area around S.F., in Los Angeles, Orange County, and in Manhattan, but an izakaya is quite a rare find in S.D. But izakayas are getting trendy these days, and it looks like in it's own small way San Diego is doing a bit of catchup.

          I loved the fact that this is a family-run operation. On opening day there was a husband/wife/sister-in-law team working the front, and the kitchen was in the deft hands of their mother and father. In large part due to this the restaurant instantly had a comfortable feel to it, almost as if it had been already in business for years! The hosts were gracious, and the combined mood of all of the guests hit the right note.

          It only added to the atmostphere when two itamae-sans I know walked-in as we were dining and later sent us a nice bottle of a ginjo! And speaking of which, as Pablo also reports, they had a very extensive sake menu, with many of their selections available by the glass. It was also well laid out by the amount of milling, or seimaibuai, the rice used to make the sake received, as well as by the nihonshu-do or density, a number which is loosely correlated to dryness. For opening day they served sake on the house with a celebratory sprinkling of gold leaf adorning the bottom of each cup.

          Without any advertising, (they didn't want to be inundated so that they could slowly ramp-up), they managed to pack the house to the point where some customers walked away after first scanning the small room for seats.

          I found the menu to be quite small compared to the typical izakaya, but larger than the "izakaya-lite" menu on offer at Tajima. It would have been nice to see a menu more on the order of Sakura's, but then again, I'm just happy to have an izakaya in my neck of the woods! It's not always that I can justify making the drive down to Kearny Mesa, and this certainly offers a very interesting alternative...

          I found their menu to lean on the side of "modern" interpretations of ippin-ryori, whereas I personally feel more comfortable with a menu with strictly more traditional items. But that's the way I am with sushi too; at the same time I could see how the menu would please many.

          We ordered many, many items during the course of our meal, and on the whole I found it competent, (which honestly puts it above almost all Japanese restaurants in San Diego...), except for the gindara miso-zuke which I found to be way too salty. The kimpira gobo was great to see as a special, but was shredded too fine to highlight the unique texture of the burdock root. Then again it could have been just 1st night jitters in the kitchen as well.

          What I enjoyed the most was their vegetable tempura, and I was certaily pleased to see it accompanied with matcha-shio in addition to the customary dipping sauce. (I believe the best way to have a well-made and hot-out-of-the-fryer vegetable tempura is simply with either sea salt, or sea salt with matcha, the powdered green tea of the Japanese tea ceremony. It's great to see the matcha-shio come without asking for it; while I routinely ask if they have any ten-shio (sea salt for tempura) at restaurants, it would be presumptious to ask for matcha-shio, as it is relatively expensive stuff...) It's very difficult to find a well-made tempura. Theirs was indeed more than competent - quite good, actually - enough to think about ordering it on every subsequent visit. But it's not going to be setting any new standards for tempura either...

          So food-wise based on this opening night's sampling it does not compare with what we have in Sakura, but it still proudly holds its own and stakes out a one-of-a-kind foothold for this part of the county. And I look foward to seeing things develop on subsequent visits as word gets out and they have more time to settle in.

          But honestly my bar was not set very high for this first sampling, as just the convenience of having such a restaurant at all in North County serving a menu such as theirs is more than I could have ever dreamed of. So for what I was looking for, they still hit it out of the park. And though they did not strictly tow the line in terms of a fully traditional menu, which by the way I believe is necessary and was a good business move, they certainly managed to retain much of the spirit of ippin-ryori in the nature of their selections.

          (My personal opinion on Wakei, which occupied the same building where Yumeya is now, was that it had too strict an interpretation of Japanese food to be economically viable. I loved the food and their commitment to keeping an authentic menu, but at the same time I didn't think that they would last as long as they did...)

          I'm rooting for Yumeya, and wish the best of luck to the Nakai family as they try to bring a very unique part of Japanese cuisine to coastal North County. I'll gladly do my part to help!


          1. cgfan, The tempura sounds fabulous, now I am going to have to get some as soon as possible! Thanks for your detailed report,
            your extensive knowledge of traditional Japanese cuisine is greatly appreciated!