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Aug 15, 2010 03:29 PM

Yayu Review – thumbs up for Ethiopian food + (mostly) Californian wine (Oakland)

Yayu is a relatively new restaurant that opened in the failed “Vine” wine bar space on Lakeshore. The food is good, with some dishes and flavors I haven’t experienced at other Ethiopian restaurants.

We had:
Special kitfo – this was very good. The greens were very finely minced and premixed with the cheese, which had a finer texture than most preparations I’ve had of this dish. The meat itself was pleasantly spicy and very flavorful (we ordered it raw).
Yesega wot – also very good.
Lamb tibs – good flavor, could have used a better sear – the cubes came out more steamed than seared.
Azifa – this was my first time trying these – they’re mashed brown lentils spiked with Ethiopian mustard, which had a sharp, horseradish-y zing that cut through the butter and the mellower spices of the other dishes. It made for a great contrast – I’ll probably always order this dish from now on, for its palate-refreshing quality.
We also had a seasoned scrambled egg dish that doesn’t seem to be on the online menu – it was pleasant, but nothing paradigm-changing.

In contrast to most Ethiopian restaurants I’ve been to, which offer a limited selection of beer and honey wine, Yayu has a relatively ambitious wine list, with a number of not exactly budget Napa bottlings featured (Darioush, Shafer) - I wonder if they got a good deal from the Vine people when they vacated? Good budget bottles are on the list too (Castle Rock, Zardetto). I haven’t had enough of the wines to comment on the suggested pairings, but they seemed plausible to me:

The night we went, we just ordered a bottle of Hook & Ladder Gewurtzraminer for the table, which seemed to go with pretty much everything. The price isn’t online, but I remember it being very reasonable – maybe $28?

Overall, I think that Ensarro does a better job with meat dishes, but Yayu may have the edge with vegetables – I’ll have to try both a few more times before I can say definitively. I do like Yayu’s airy, gallery-like space, and the thoughtful wine list.

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  1. I agree with the thumbs-up, and in particular the point about new and interesting dishes. We thoroughly enjoyed Telba Wot, billed as "flax seed stew," which I haven't seen anywhere else. I am a *huge* fan of the Shiro Wot (now called Acham Yelesh Shiro, I believe) at Enssaro, and this was similar but with flax seeds rather than chick peas as the base flavor. Our initial reaction was just that it was interesting and different, but the flavor grew on us and grew on us as the meal progressed. In the end, we were essentially fighting over it, with our 4-year-old clearly winning out...

    366 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA