Event - Yelp's Yori Modern Japanese Cuisine Tasting

I am so grateful that I've been able to get involved with Yelp so much more in the past few months. Just under a full year of Elite status (but, teehee, I have two badges due to coming in late in 2012), I've been to some great events, and it's always interesting when the Elite only events pop up. This time around, we were treated to an eight course tasting at Yori Modern Japanese Cuisine, a restaurant in Brea right at the Imperial Highway exit off the 57. The place had only been open two or so weeks so we were quite lucky to be given this opportunity, especially for a new business. To my surprise, the whole place was closed for us. What a treat.


The check-in was quick, and we all got our name tags stuck on properly before being assigned seating. I really liked this aspect that Ryan incorporated because it made us all make new friends! Cheers to my table of whom I only really knew one person. I think that was generally the case for all of the tables. Good company is a big part of what makes a dining experience good. Once everyone had settled, we were introduced to the owner and chefs who welcomed us wholeheartedly before diving straight into getting all of the food ready for all of the hungry Yelpers. We noshed on edamame as we waited and played with the Yelp swag on the tables.


The first out was a colorful and bright plate of their Mango Ceviche (tuna, salmon, shrimp, snapper, mango, avocado with Japanese mustard sauce and sesame sauce). The presentation was absolutely beautiful but I'm sure I had a bit of a perplexed look on my face. It really wasn't what I was expecting when I read "ceviche," especially because the fish was on the border of the plates. Also, I didn't quite catch the shrimp or snapper in my bites. I thought the sauce was fantastic albeit heavier than expected of ceviche (creamier than I would have liked) but the fish was a bit disappointing. Usually with sashimi, the fish is at least cool if not cold; I attributed it to the sheer amount of people they needed to feed at the exact same time. I hope that the fish is colder during normal business hours! Then we had the Shrimp Dumpling with Cream Sauce (fried wonton stuffed with cream cheese, crab, shrimp, and pineapple with cream sauce), another saucy dish that was again, tasty in terms of sauce but too heavy-handed. I really enjoyed the stuffing in each fried dumpling as the crab was plentiful.


Surprisingly in all of this, my favorite was probably the Grilled Asparagus (with fried runny egg, garlic chips, and Parmesan cheese). What can I say? I like the simple dishes that really let their ingredients' core flavor profiles shine through. With the asparagus, there was a potential threat of being covered up by the runny egg yolk but ultimately, it was good asparagus through and through. The garlic chips added a fantastic crunch to the spears. In contrast to that potentially healthful dish, we received the HeartAttack (cream cheese, crab meat, spicy tuna, and jalapeno on the inside all deep-fried with spicy crab meat and spicy lobster on top) next. The name alone instilled fear but that was easily trumped by the wide eyes we gave when the sauce-laden roll was placed down in front of us all. I have to give it to Yori - they sure know their sauces! The spiciness on this was just perfect, and the morsels of spicy crab and lobster quite delightful. However, cream cheese + cream-based sauce + spicy food just ultimately screams beware. A name befitting the probably result of eating this, the Heartattack was not a small plate to be trifled with, and I'm glad I only had one piece.


Fortunately, our next two dishes following the HeartAttack were more health-conscious, sort of. The Udon Salad came out in a large family-style bowl piled high with fresh vegetables. I wasn't even able to spot the noodles until I stirred it up a bit, hence the second picture. Again, fantastic sauce but boy was it saucy! I'm not sure a salad brings to mind a sauce-heavy dish to anyone. The chewy noodles were not just slick with the stuff but practically donned an outer coat of it. I thoroughly enjoyed the doneness and texture of the noodles themselves but could have done with less "dressing" in this salad. Next came their Tofu Burger, a gorgeous plating of two slider-sized portions that cleverly used fried tofu as the buns instead of patty. These were sliced into sharing sizes (though oddly, the fresh avocado wasn't which produced a messy sharing situation at our table) so we could each evaluate our own bites. With plenty of shelled edamame scattered on the plate and a filling of stir-fried vegetables (and MUSHROOM!), the options were healthful. However, I think it was a little too bland and could have done with either more seasoning on the tofu or salt in general. We can still be health-conscious but not skimp on some important details.


It seemed like we were ready to quit at the table but more was coming, including the stacked Seafoodyaki Roll (inside was avocado, cucumber, and crab meat while outside was stir-fry green mussel, shrimp, scallop, and calamari). It's certainly not a dish for the non-adventurous eater! Piled high with goodies on the outside, this was similar to a California roll in base and a seafood stir-fry on the outside. We all found it, once again, saucy. I felt like there were too many toppings for a group to share because inevitably, you don't quite get every piece type with your portion. However, what I had of the outside was pretty great. Lastly, a large plate of their Cod Misoyaki with Spicy Risotto came out. Using pearl barley instead of arborio, the chef had decided to put a spin on the risotto. What did it do? Well it certainly made the dish chewier and stickier in good risotto fashion. On the technique of it, the dish was great even with the substitute. However, risotto in a Japanese restaurant? It doesn't seem like an expected or good idea, especially if it's going to be spicy sweet. The cod itself was brilliant - flaky and fried to a nice crunchiness - but the miss came from the risotto having confusing flavor profiles.

Throughout the night, we had excellent service, and I certainly thank them for everything that they did for us. Thank you to the owners for having us and to Ryan for throwing together a fun Elite event. The event itself flowed quite well from start to finish, but I think that the food needs a little bit more work. Of course, when your restaurant is completely full and every table needs the same food at the same time, it does stress things a little more. I'll give them another shot after they've worked out the kinks in their new-business stage, especially since they handed out some coupon cards to those of us there. I'll have to drag other people with too huh? Anyhow, congratulations on the opening, and I hope that you all got good feedback from the Yelpers! Long story short, lay off the sauce a little and let the base/main ingredients do what they do best: show themselves off.

Photography by Minerva Thai. More photos are available on Facebook.

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