Sunday, March 28, 2010

Yukikos Comtemporary Comfort Food - a grand blend of old and new

I was delighted to receive the promised phone call from Jody, my favourite server at Yukikos, letting me know that Yukikos is open again for business. Judy and Tom closed Yukikos at the end of August 2009 to have their baby boy (a strapping and happy baby I was glad to meet) and renovate the restaurant.  They re-opened last week, and Yukikos is now called Yukikos Contemporary Comfort Food.

I eagerly purused the lunch menu looking for old favourites and most were there with a few welcome new additions. One of my favourites, the Warm Chickpea Salad ($10) still graces the menu, although I found it somewhat blander than the earlier version - perhaps more garlic?  The sauce remains a delicious blend of EVOO, white wine, and fresh herbs. Grilled foccacia wedges are provided for dipping in the sauce while sundried tomatoes, chunks of feta, hot pepper rings and a couple of olives are sprinkled on top.  A healthy dose of fresh spinach completes the salad. This definitely remains one of my favourite comfort foods.

My young friend chose the Classic Grilled Cheese ($8) from the KISS (Keep it Simple) Sandwiches section of the menu. It is made with cheddar, of course, and comes with choice of soup or salad. She chose the Tomato Soup to accompany it and pronounced it a wonderful blend of spices. She was somewhat taken aback by the chunky texture (it's definitely not Campbell's), but we both thought it was the best tomato soup we'd "ever".

Tom and Judy have completely renovated the restaurant to mixed reviews.  Some prefer the "old home" atmosphere we'd all come to love; however, I was quite excited to see the contremporary furnitue complete with wooden tables and booths upholstered in a textured tan material. The walnut flooring makes the perfect compliment to the red and white accents, and they assured me that there is more to come before the grand opening.

The dessert cabinet, although smaller, still holds a prominent spot at the front counter, and more old favourites covered the shelves.  There is now a dessert menu offering a selection of staples that will make your decision even more difficult.

Great news is that they're opening for Sunday brunch starting in April - hooray!

For those who missed the review I wrote for Real Women magazine in 2008, here is it:

Yukiko's Cafe Bistro
Address : 30 William Street West, Waterloo, ON N2L 1J4
Telephone : 519-576-9424

Hours of Operation:
Monday to Thursday 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Friday 11:30 am – 11:30 pm
Saturday 11:00 am – 11:30 pm

When our publisher, Shelly, asked me to write about comfort food for our winter issue, Yukiko’s Café Bistro topped the list.

Located in uptown Waterloo in a funky, burnt-orange converted house, Yukiko’s has a bistro ambiance with colourful plastered stucco walls and art displays that change every month or two. On recent visits, stills and landscapes by artist Salomé Pérez added to our enjoyment.

Everything about Yukiko’s spells comfort for me. Over the years, I’ve tried almost every item on the menu, and it’s all been consistently well cooked and beautifully presented.

The Caesar salad (sm $5.50, lg $8.50) offers wonderfully crisp romaine lettuce, freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, homemade croutons and real bacon bits. It comes lightly dressed with a creamy dressing that could use a little more garlic for my taste, but it’s a dish I thoroughly enjoy on almost every visit.

If I had to name a number one favourite, it would be the Warm Salad of Chickpeas, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Feta, Garlic & Spinach ($10), all tossed in a pan with extra-virgin olive oil, with a splash of white wine, fresh herbs and a few hot pepper rings for added zip. The baby spinach is very fresh and gives a nice balance to the warmth of the chickpea mixture. This delightful concoction is served with warmed focaccia bread to soak up the sauce. That’s comfort food at its best!

My favourite weekend lunch treat is the omelette feature ($11), and they offer a different variety every week. On this visit, I had an excellent Three Cheese omelette with Brie, orange and white cheddar, choice of soup or salad (I had the Caesar, of course ), and a slice of their fresh daily homemade bread that left me feeling pleasantly stuffed.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try Yukiko’s Tasty Trio ($10). It’s a great way to sample their unique daily salad creation served with a mixed greens salad and your choice of soup. For the sandwich lover, Yukikos offers eight combo platters including long-time favourite the Mediterraneo ($10.50), a warm sandwich stuffed with grilled eggplant, goat cheese, red peppers, sweet onions, and black olive tapanade on herbed focaccia. Their Famous Old-fashioned Burger ($6.50) is thoroughly satisfying and one of the best in town.

Four of us dropped by for dinner, and, as one of my friends said, “A good meal was had by all.” The Grilled New York Striploin Steak with Bourbon-braised Onions ($24) was simply delicious. I tried the Panko-crusted Salmon Fillet ($21), and as the menu says, it is indeed an addictive gorgeous fillet of premium salmon with a crispy crumb crust. The scoop of guacamole added a tasty touch. Our friends enjoyed the Grilled Chicken with a Pineapple Sweet & Sour Sauce ($16) that was just the right blend of tartness and sweetness.

A choice of potato of the day or rice pilaf and vegetables accompanies each entrée. On this visit, the roasted potatoes were the perfect compliment to the steak, and we thoroughly enjoyed the rice blended with sun-dried tomato, zucchini and sautéed onion. If the vegetables, although flavourful and tender crisp, had been hot when served, we each would have declared the perfect meal.

Yukiko’s is renowned for their pastries. Chef Sheena Kobe outdid herself on this visit with an Orange Chocolate Cake ($6.95) with layers of orange cream mousse—simply decadent! The Triple Chocolate Cheesecake ($6.95) blended white, milk and dark chocolate in a classic cheesecake base. There was not one crumb left of either dessert. For those who want something lighter, the dessert counter also offers pies and squares.

Expect to pay around $100 for two with shared appetizer and dessert (if you can bear to share :)) and a ½ Litre of the house wine. If you see me at my favourite table, do drop by and say hi. ENJOY!


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