& Sushi Bar
62 Station Landing, Medford
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:45 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:45 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.
All major credit cards accepted
Accessible to the handicapped
Station Landing in Medford is an odd urban haven in a landscape of industrial parks and working-class neighborhoods. With luxury apartments and condos atop chain stores and restaurants, this development at the intersection of Routes 16 and 28 is not quite downtown, not quite suburban, and not quite country.
Yoki, a Japanese restaurant and sushi bar, is an exception to Station Landing’s lineup of chains such as Qdoba, Starbucks, and Cold Stone Creamery, as it has only one sister restaurant in the Boston area. Thus, it adds a neighborhood touch – if sleek, minimalist décor and industrial-beat music is your kind of neighborhood.
The cuisine is the Japanese fare that we have come to expect in urban America, although you might see pad Thai on the specials menu. Bamboo, dark wood, and peach walls are the extent of the interior flourishes, but the simplicity makes dining comfortable rather than cool. The restaurant is expansive, broken into a series of rooms, with booths and tables. Its nooks can provide intimacy for couples, but there’s enough room to accommodate a large group, such as ours on a recent night.
The full-service bar is both hip and inviting, with pulsating panels supporting an ebony counter. Backlight bottles and a streak of neon blue across the ceiling create a twilight aura. There’s a specialty cocktail menu and wine and beer list; we heeded the waitress’s recommendation and started off with samples of Momokawa Pearl sake, ($15 a bottle) served cool and unfiltered, a particularly flavorful libation for sake lovers.
Yoki covers all the bases from edamame to udon; the appetizers, however, are the dishes hit out of the park. The salmon tartare ($13) was a gorgeous mound of fresh salmon mixed with avocado, diced cucumber, and spicy mayo. Tempura flakes gave it a nice texture – and it was served with chips that added even more crunch.
The hotate-hokkaiyaki ($9.75), scallops and crab sticks baked in spicy mayo and served on a scallop shell, takes longer to prepare, but is worth the wait for its fresh flavor and the mayo kick. Yoki has a deft touch with that spicy mayo, which can ruin otherwise wonderful dishes with overkill.
We also sampled an appetizer special, shrimp wrapped in bacon, ($9) in which the juicy shrimp actually overpowered the bacon. Other starter dishes include gyoza ($6.25), spring rolls ($5.75), and soft-shell crab ($10.50).
Sushi lovers will enjoy Yoki for its many sushi, sashimi, and maki combinations. We focused on its specialized maki rolls. Sure, Yoki serves basics like the California roll ($5.75), which was fine, but be sure to check out options like the dragon maki ($12.50,) which goes a step better by putting the California maki “inside” with eel and avocado outside.
The house vegetarian maki ($6) was a farmers-market bargain with crisp and succulent bits of cucumber, oshinko (a type of Japanese pickle), seaweed salad, yamagobo (marinated root), and kanpyo (gourd).
Our waitress recommended the Red Sox ($14.50) and the Celtics ($14.50) maki. Starting slow with a crunchy finish, the Red Sox roll combined tuna, cucumber, and avocado roll topped with a mixture of tempura flakes and eel and glazed with sweet sauce and spicy mayo. Red roe made the dish live up to its namesake.
The Celtics maki, with eel and cucumber and glazed with a sweet sauce, was prettier with its topping of golden roe, but our party preferred the less-sweet Sox. Yoki also has offers a Patriots maki, with three types of fish and mango sauce for $16; and a Bruins maki — salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese for $14.50. Another unusual but tasty option was the Idaho maki ($5), which uses sweet potato tempura as its filling.
For an entrée, we went for the hibachi yoki trio ($25), which featured steak, shrimp, and chicken served with mixed vegetables and fried soba noodles. The steak was the Diana Ross of the trio, taking center stage with a delectable tenderness unhindered by anything but its own meaty tang.
We also ordered the tofu teriyaki ($16.50), choosing tofu from among the chicken, beef, shrimp, scallop, and salmon options as a concession to the vegetarians in the crowd. One taste, and all tongues were clamoring to go green as the tofu, creamy and well-infused with the teriyaki sauce, melted on the tongue with lovely texture and even better flavor. It was the hit of the evening.
Another option for both meat and veggie lovers was the vegetable tempura ($14.25) with a crust that was light on grease.
Yoki also offers sushi a la carte and various combos of sushi, maki, and sashimi dishes, ranging from $20 to $54.45. While the bar service was effusive and friendly, the table service was detached, if competent. That may not, however, be an issue for a restaurant in Station Landing, a development still working its way to becoming a neighborhood.