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Dining Out

Japanese menu offerings outshine poor service

WENDY CHOW/GLOBE STAFF

The sushi deluxe at Yamato.

Yamato Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi

510 Westgate Drive, Brockton

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Telephone: 508-588-8881

www.yamatosushi.com

Hours: Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner 4:30-10 p.m. (Fri. till 11 p.m.); Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun. 11:30-10 p.m.

Accepts Visa and MasterCard

Fully accessible

Westgate Mall in Brockton has had a tough time holding on to large chain restaurants. Uno Chicago Grill closed two years ago, Bugaboo Creek Steak House in November 2010, and Old Country Buffet last September. So it was a welcome sight to see a Japanese restaurant take over the Uno location.

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Yamato Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi had its grand opening Feb. 10. It’s the fourth location for the regional owners, who also have restaurants in Taunton; Smithfield, R.I.; and Dayville, Conn. (The Yamato Japanese Restaurant in Brighton is run by a different owner.)

The Brockton location has retained the brick walls from its Uno days, but the bamboo greenery and other Asian influences make it clear the restaurant is not a pizzeria anymore. The restaurant has seating for about 200 people, and on a recent Friday dinner visit, the place was packed.

Given the enthusiastic welcome by area diners, I really wanted to like Yamato. Alas, unless service and quality improves, I fear cost-conscious diners will steer clear of this restaurant.

On our first visit for a Sunday lunch, few tables were occupied, but service was slow and inconsistent.

Our orders came fairly promptly, but a couple nearby was clearly exasperated. We watched as the man finished his lunch while the woman sipped her drink, still waiting for her dish to arrive. Finally, she called the server over to cancel her order. Perplexed, the waiter assured her that her order was nearly ready, but the couple had had enough and asked for the check. While waiting another 10 minutes before their bill was finally settled, they commiserated with a family at a nearby table that had a wrong dish delivered.

I chalked up this experience to opening-month jitters, since it normally takes a few weeks for new businesses to get into the swing of things. Things are bound to improve, right? Unfortunately, during a return visit, we were the ones on the receiving end of poor service.

Our party of four ordered four dinners and some sushi to share as an appetizer. Three of our orders arrived quickly, but the sushi didn’t come until we were halfway through our dinners and the fourth order never came even after several inquiries. After what had been delivered was eaten, we canceled the fourth dish. The staff apologized, but no effort was made to make up for the mistake.

A fellow diner nearby had the same experience, and the misstep was compounded when the staff also failed to deduct the missing order from her bill. The one saving grace was Francisco, who worked as busboy that night. He was attentive, efficient, pleasant, and respectful.

The spotty service was reflected in the quality of the food. On the positive side, we enjoyed a bowl of nabe yake udon ($15). The hearty noodle soup was topped with fish cake, chicken slices, poached egg, and vegetables, with a side of shrimp tempura. A plate of soft shell crab tempura ($18) was crispy and decadently unctuous. A bowl of katsu don, deep-fried pork cutlet with egg over rice ($12), made a teenager very happy.

The chicken and salmon teriyaki dinner box ($20) was less successful. While the salmon was moist and flavorful, the chicken breast slices had a spongy texture. The accompanied fried rice was too salty, the shumai was clearly previously frozen, and the California roll was small and uninspired.

An order of sukiyaki ($15) included sliced beef, tofu, vegetables, and yam glass noodles in a shallow iron pot. While the ingredients were fresh, the broth was too sweet, making the dish a disappointment.

Sushi here is beautifully plated, with a tiny encased LED display flashing under a mound of daikon threads, along with sauce piped onto the plate to resemble a painting. The fish in the sushi deluxe ($19), which offered a tuna roll with 10 pieces of assorted sushi, was good, if unspectacular. The Yamato sashimi special ($40) had 34 pieces of assorted fish, from raw salmon to cooked octopus. However, some of the slices of fish had dry edges.

We had hoped to enjoy the skills of a teppanyaki chef here, but the wait was too long that Friday evening, so we opted to sit in a booth. The lucky diners who sat around the grills, called hibachi on the menu here, were clearly enjoying themselves. We heard lots of laughter, and saw a chef accurately toss morsels of food into the open mouths of his appreciative audience.

During a phone interview, owner/manager Kevin Tian said reception to Yamato has been better than expected, especially since they haven’t done any advertising. He acknowledged that service is a work in progress, and he welcomes feedback from customers so that management can resolve issues.

He also said the restaurant is still looking for experienced servers.

WENDY CHOW

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