dining out for tsunami relief – yu restaurant and lounge

Yu Restaurant and Lounge

1323 montana ave. (@ euclid)
Santa Monica, ca 90402

Yu Restaurant and Lounge has closed. As of May 2009, the space is R+D Kitchen.

Is it right that a restaurant will donate only 10% – 20% of the day’s sales to the tsunami disaster relief? It doesn’t sound like much, but given that a restaurant’s margins are so low to begin with, 10% – 20% of sales might be the entire night’s profit. At least that’s what I told myself, so I would have a legitimate excuse to check out a new restaurant – yu restaurant and lounge in santa monica.

If it weren’t for the fact that the entire street was deserted save for the half block radius around the restaurant, we would have driven right by yu, which is in a space that used to be a wolfgang puck cafe. it’s is dark on the outside, and there’s no sign. that seems quite the trend now in restaurant storefronts – be obviously inconspicuous. quite annoying, actually, when i have to u-turn. twice.

Yu serves asian small plates. it’s not fusion, it’s asian, and if we want to get really obnoxious, it’s pan-asian – different cuisines represented on the menu, but not really mixed together in the same dish. sometimes it seems weird to me that things likea teacup saucer sized plate of garlic boonchi beans are served here in such high style when I can get an enormous family style plate of dry sauteed chinese long beans at a chinese restaurant. not sure if “boonchi beans” are the scientific name for green beans, but that’s what they tasted like. they were okay, but a little overly spiced. and what of the sweet and sour kurabota pork with ruby red grapefruit? it too has a fancy name and is served in high style. about 8 pieces sit in a hammered silver plate over a little bunsen burner – but it tastes like…sweet and sour pork from panda express.

There were things on the menu i didn’t order because it just felt wrong – korean things. jahp chae, galbee, and kimchi bokeumbop. they were translated into ingrish on the menu, though – korean barbecued shorts ribs, chili kimchi fried rice. i think if i want to eat korean food, i would go into koreatown.

Overall, yu’s food was good, though everything seemed a little overly salted and/or spiced – and that’s coming from a saltaholic who puts extra salt on everything! that said, the place is nice – low lights, high ceilings, dark wood…a gi-normous golden buddha in the front of the dining room and huge empty birdcages hanging from the ceiling. but it just doesn’t seem like the type of restaurant that fits this location. there are lots of “trendy” places popping up in santa monica these days, like cinch, lincoln, kai, boa…but they’re not on quiet little montana ave. i’m not raving, but others like daily candy and the l.a.times seem excited.

Oh well, yu was worth a try, if for nothing else, at most for the tsunami. they better send over that *punch punch punch calculator* $20 to south asia!

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