Cardiff has a growing number of quality Japanese restaurants, my favourite being Mt. Fuji in St David’s Shopping Centre, closely followed by Yakitori#1 in Cardiff Bay and Tenkaichi on City Road, Cathays (I am yet to get to Ichiban, but from what I’ve heard it’s pretty decent there too!)
When I went along to YO! Sushi in St David’s Shopping Centre, Cardiff recently to try out some new dishes along with food blogger, Imran from Kitchen Clonc, I was a little unsure of what to expect. I’ve never been to YO! Sushi before and I didn’t want to get my hopes up, as I wasn’t convinced the food would be on par with the independent restaurants I’ve been to.
Founded in 1997 by British entrepreneur, Simon Woodroffe in Soho, London , YO! Sushi now has well over 50 UK outlets, in addition to restaurants in Ireland, Denmark, Norway, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
Best known for its Japanese conveyor belt-style approach to food service, YO! Sushi serves a range of sushi dishes in addition to traditional Japanese main courses, such as chicken katsu curry and ramen noodle soups. Diners can either pick dishes up from the conveyor belt or order fresh from the menu. The price of each dish is determined by a colour scheme; there are seven colours and seven prices, ranging from £1.90 to £6. For some dishes, there is also an option for a larger, ‘Sumo Me’ portion at £8.50.
Traditionally, YO! Sushi’s menu was grouped according to these colour schemes. However, plates are now categorised according to the type of dish they represent; this may take some getting used to for some of YO! Sushi’s regulars. Alongside a selection of sushi dishes, the restaurant offers a variety of popular Japanese foods including gyoza (dumplings), teriyaki-glazed meat, Katsu (coated in panko breadcrumbs), miso and ramen noodles, soups and broths, and more.
As we waited for our first course to arrive I sipped on a crisp, dry Asahi beer (£3.90 for 330ml; £5.20 for 500ml) – one of Japan’s most popular beers.
In just a few minutes, our first course was sitting in front of us. The sushi roll selection (£5) was a trio of generously-sized sushi rolls including Ichi-Ni-San (scallop, salmon, tuna, cucumber and yuzu koshu nori roll with Arenkha caviar), Ginza (fresh salmon, cream cheese and cucumber with arenkha caviar, teriyaki, sriracha and mayo) and Spider (soft-shelled crap and pickled ginger with yuzu tobiko and sweet chilli sauce). This was the perfect start to our meal. The plate was full of colour, while each roll tasted fresh and flavoursome; I wouldn’t hesitate to order a portion of these to myself.
The roll selection was accompanied by a dish of potato and pickled vegetables in karashi mustard mayo dressing (£1.90), traditonally eaten in an Izakaya (a type of Japanese gastro-bar, commonly associated with after-work drinking). A twist on the potato salad as we know it, this dish was creamy and tangy with a subtle fiery kick.
We moved on to a hot bowl of chazuke (£3.90) – salmon, seabass, shiso leaf, yuzu koshu, rice and nori in a fragrant umami broth. This really wasn’t to our liking; the broth had a strong fishy taste and the flaky texture of the cooked fish, combined with the rice, was a little too much for my stomach to handle.
The chazuke was followed by three portions of nigiri-style sushi, including the ama ebi (£3.40, pictured below) – raw shrimp on a bed of rice, served with traditional wasabi and nori. The shrimp had a pleasant, slightly sweet taste, although the texture seemed a little mushy.
The saba nigiri (£3.40) consisted of teriyaki-glazed, cured mackerel and chopped spring onion. I’ve never tried mackerel in sushi before, so this was a first for me. It was difficult to detect the teriyaki glaze and I wasn’t overly keen on the texture of the fish, although I did like its slightly smoky flavour.
The third nigiri sushi dish that we tried was the tako (£3.40); this consisted of thinly sliced, soft-poached octopus (something I’ve never been able to bring myself to try) with wasabi and nori. I was going to give it a go, but Imran tried it and thought that it was a little tough and fishy-tasting, so I decided to play it safe and give this dish a miss.
However, I was more than happy to tuck into our next dish of seabass nanbanzuke (£4.30) – a colourful arrangement of sweet and sour seabass, pickles and vegetables served with rice. Served pan-fried and slightly crispy, the sea-bass was tender and bone-free and the mixed pickles and veg introduced new flavours to the dish.
The buta no kakuni (£4.30) was definitely one of the best things I tasted all evening. Succulent chunks of slow-braised pork belly and daikon (winter radish) were nestled in an aromatic, sweet soy sauce that sank deep into the rice beneath. Japanese comfort food at its best.
The last of the main courses we tried (although by no means the least!), the taba no karage (£4.30) included three medium-sized portions of some of the crispiest fried chicken wings I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring, served with a wedge of lime.
We were feeling comfortably full after sharing no less than nine plates between us, so we were going to give dessert a miss. However, YO! Sushi also offers food to takeaway and so Steve offered to pop a dessert in a take-out box for us to indulge in at home later – an offer we simply couldn’t refuse!
Pictured below, YO! Sushi’s take-out boxes (or ‘Hot Boxes’ as their known), are made from sturdy, thick cardboard, making them ideal for transporting freshly-cooked hot food as well as cold dishes.
We tried out the Japanese souffle cheesecake (£4.30). Soft and moist, this was almost like a cross between a light sponge cake and a thick pudding. I would definitely order it again at YO! Sushi, although I’d be equally as tempted to work my way around the other six delectable dessert options on the menu, like the matcha green tea sponge and the apple gyoza.
In ways, I think I was right to be wary of my first visit to YO! Sushi – the quality of the food was by no means poor, but it wasn’t as good as food I’ve tasted previously at Cardiff’s independent Japanese restaurants. However, the relatively low cost of most dishes is a big selling point for YO! Sushi and for some, this may compensate for the differences in quality. In addition, I was a big fan of the conveyor-belt and I enjoyed watching the food being prepared in the open-plan kitchen.
If you’re thinking of visiting YO! Sushi I recommend going there on a Monday, when you can choose from no less than 36 dishes from the conveyor-belt for just £2.80 each, as part of the ongoing ‘Blue Mondays’ promotion!
YO! Sushi Cardiff
St David’s Shopping Centre
5 Bridge Street
(029) 2060 2174
I was invited to YO! Sushi as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary; however, I was not obliged to write a positive review.