It is rare that I eat alone, but I had to when I visited Yuu Japanese Tapas last week. I had a meeting in Richmond that extended from early afternoon into dinner time. It was too late to drive home for dinner. I had to find a spot to dine by my lonesome. My original plan was to pick up a bahn mi from the Chinese-operated Vietnamese place next door, but I randomly changed my mind at the last minute and decided to give Yuu a try.
Yuu looked like a HK cafe. It smelled liked a HK cafe. The servers in the restaurant looked like they worked in a HK cafe. The menu had ramen and Japanese curry on it, but upon deeper examination it resembled that of a HK cafe. There were noodle choices; there were rice choices; there were deep fried appetizers and salads; there were sizzling hot plates. Yuu was a HK cafe.
I ordered a deep fried chicken appetizer and a sizzling hot plate main.
The deep fried chicken appetizer actually resembled a Japanese chicken karaage. There were no bones in the chicken and the cut of meat used was thigh instead of breast. The skin was cripsy-crunchy but not oily. The meat was kinda tender and a little bit juicy. I enjoyed eating the karaage-like dish. I suppose that the dish could be considered authentically Japanese, but a deep fried boneless chicken dish could likewise be considered an authentically American, Canadian, Chinese, or Korean dish. The Cantonese being spoken all around me certainly aided in the illusion of the dish being a HK cafe dish.
The sizzling hot plate hamburg steak/shrimp katsu dish needed no Cantonese sountrack in the background for it to feel like a HK cafe dish. The sizzling hot plate, the broccoli, and the pieces of carrots did the trick. The crunchy, lived-in-the-freezer-ten-minutes-ago shrimp katsu also looked familiar. I’m pretty sure I’ve had the exact same shrimp at HK cafes previously. The actual shrimps within the the crunchy breading were snappy and flavourless. They would’ve tasted much better if I had some iced HK milk tea to wash them down with.
The hamburg steak sounded very Japanese. The grated daikon that it was topped with and the ‘teriyaki’ sauce that came with it were supposed to complete the authentic Japanese hamburg steak illusion. Sadly, the illusion was never created. For some unquantifiable reason (to me, at least), biting into the patty gave me an overwhelming feeling that I was eating HK-style western food. It might have been the ratio of meat used in the patty or it might have been the sauce, but I totally felt like I was eating a HK cafe mixed grill dish rather than a Japanese hamburg steak dish.
I totally understand why Yuu wanted to position itself as a Japanese tapas restaurant rather than a HK cafe. The extremely popular Deer Garden Signatures was located only a few doors down. The generic menu offerings at Yuu simply cannot compare with the more innovative (relative speaking) offerings at Deer Garden Signatures – not to mention the portion size and value proposition. In order for them to have any chance to survive, the owners and decision makers at Yuu had to differentiate themselves from Deer Garden Signatures. They probably should’ve done a better job at making their menu offerings more distinct…although I have to say that the restaurants’s name — which is a not too subtle pun on Guu — was well thought out and unintentionally brilliant in its irony and humor.