When increased rent forced East Side King out of its space behind Hole in the Wall, Yatai, owned by the founders of Michi Ramen, filled the vacancy. This month, they underwent a soft opening for this new Japanese street food restaurant.
Due to the small space available, Michi Ramen announced they would stray from their traditional, ramen-centric menu for their new restaurant, Yatai. By definition, yatai means a small, mobile food stall typically selling ramen. Michi decided to take this idea to bring simple, delicious Japanese foods to its customers, who can dine in, order delivery or take their food to go.
East Side King’s iconic murals are still visible beneath Yatai’s white paint job, as if the restaurant hasn’t quite settled in yet, and the restaurant is missing an official sign on the back entrance, only showcasing a propped open door that allows the restaurant’s music to be heard to lure customers in. The restaurant seems to focus more on its food than presentation at this point.
There are three main types of entrees: kushiyaki skewers, tempura veggies and homemade korokke. The skewers provide meat options such as black pepper steak and bacon-wrapped asparagus, while the tempura veggies offer battered items like lotus root, japanese eggplant and sweet potatoes. Korokke, or panko-breaded mashed potato balls, have options like potato and bacon cheddar.
Yatai recommends customers mix and match their items to get the full Yatai experience. Their portions are perfect for sharing or sampling a variety of items. While the tempura vegetables are lightly battered and successfully refrain from overpowering the taste of the vegetable itself, diners should be careful to not order only tempura items because the food begins to all taste the same.
Adding vegetarian sides to the meal, such as edamame and cabbage slaw, can round out a vegetable-based meal. The chicken skewers are bland compared to the bacon ones, but in general, the kushiyaki skewers are flavorful when paired with the sansho glaze. Add spiced pepper seasoning to the crab crackers — one of 10 side options — to spice up an otherwise flavorless dish. Customers can complete their meal with a choice of 12 flavors of mochi ice cream, or head to the Hole in the Wall bar for Japanese beer and sake.
Yatai plans to eventually add ramen to the menu, something that will attract Michi Ramen’s established followers.
The small plate idea is what makes this restaurant stand out from other places on the Drag. Students and other customers can go and share a variety of reasonably priced food while enjoying a beer, a luxury not available at other restaurants around campus.
The soft opening was a successful step in introducing the expansion of Michi Ramen’s chain by offering a diverse range of food and satisfactory customer service. Although the space is not aesthetically pleasing yet, its food is worth sharing with friends and will hopefully help Yatai grow into an off-campus institution on par with its predecessor.
- Address: 2538 Guadalupe St.
- Hours: 3 p.m. — 12 a.m., Thursday through Sunday
- Recommended food: Kushiyaki bacon asparagus
- Score: 6.5