Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Dreamy First Impression: Yumeya

It is very, very rare that I talk about a restaurant that I've only been to once on the blog. Sometimes, first impressions are tricky, since too often, I've been disappointed or delightfully surprised on a second visit. But today, I feel a burning desire to talk about my dinner last night even though that was my first visit to the new Japanese izakaya-style restaurant in Sunnyvale, Yumeya (or Yume-ya).

I found myself repeatedly saying, "I was so impressed with Yume-ya last night!" over and over again this morning. Watch out, Tanto and Saizo, there is a new Dream Come True (yume in Japanese) in town for us Japanese izakaya fans!

The decor at Yume-ya is nothing fancy at all. In fact, when I saw the place, I was hesitant to come in, since it looked so sketchy. But when I saw the menu, I was definitely intrigued and excited about eating here. The dishes were innovative with wonderful variation. Dishes covering a range of grilled, fried, fresh, and boiled could be found for savory, sour, and sweet in many different combinations.

We tried a wide variety of dishes, of which none were disappointing. Although everything was uniformly good, there were some standouts that were prepared with very delicate attention to detail and flavor. I was a big fan of the tsukune meatballs which came as one of the three skewers of the yakitori order. I also really liked the flash-fried sato imo (sticky, taro-like potato) soaked in a strong dashi broth.

The portion sizes were perfectly calculated for the diners to want just a little more - a common problem with places like Tanto these days has been that by the time you're done with the dishes, you're so sick of the flavors that you don't feel like coming back for more for a while! Instead, Yume-ya's smaller portions left you wanting more each bit. It definitely had the draw power to make me want to come back again soon.

The delightfully surprising thing was how affordable dinner here ended up being! Four hungry people with approximately 1 liter of sake (consumed by alone) ended up being $100 or so before tip and tax - much better cost performance than ANY of the good local Japanese restaurants. The sake menu is moderately priced - and a little bit tricky. I saw a sake titled, "Kyoto-style Special Junmai", and since I'm a Kyotophile and I like junmai (pure-rice) sake, I decided to give it a try. I liked it quite a bit, since it was crisp and clear with just enough kick to go well with food...until I saw the bottle. Well, the bottle said in big letters, "SHOCHIKUBAI". ...I felt like I had gone to a blind taste test for French Fries, choosing the crispiest, perfectly salted fries, only to find out they were from MacDonalds. Or going to a blind beer tasting with lots of good local microbrews and choosing a Michelob Special as my favorite. Shochikubai?! What's wrong with me?!

Anyway, the only other potentially bad part of Yumeya is that their Today's Specials menu is only in Japanese. I'm not sure how to get around the ordering issue if you couldn't read the white board or the printed menu. Heck, they almost didn't give me the Japanese menu - which would have resulted in me never coming back! The English menu was boring and if anything, centered on sushi, which was not mentioned once in the Japanese menu. Because of that, I didn't try the sushi, but maybe one of these days I'll get adventurous.

Next time, I'll take pictures! This place is definitely blog-worthy!

150 El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA
5:30 PM-11:00 PM
Closed Sundays


The Papa Bear said...

Everything tasted good, but I especially like the shiokara (that slimy squid in equally slimy sauce) that goes, oh, so good with a pinch of sake.

This was a good serendipitous find.

Crawmommy said...

I'm just amazed how quickly you found out about this new place! I can't wait to try it, as I work in Santa Clara!!

Alice said...

Hi, Papa,

Yes, I'm glad all of us were up for an adventure!


I saw it on BaySpo! and when Saizo wouldn't let the four of sit in a six person table, we decided we'd give the new place a try. This place isn't open for lunch, but it's highly recommended!

Anonymous said...

I would love to go but i don't read japanese, is there anyway you can tell me what to order? or the menu changes daily?? Thanks!

Phil said...

This is my favorite Japanese restaurant in the bay area. I know you didn't try the sushi, but please do. It's the best I've had in the area. The dishes are also great. The sushi chef and co-owner, named Fumio Sugawara (AKA Suga-san!) is a great guy and has a very dedicated following, including some area high tech execs. Suga-san worked for the past 17 years at Tokies in Foster City before starting Yume-Ya! Kanpai!

Anonymous said...

I'm very picky about my Japanese food and have tried many Japanese restaurants in the bay area and Yume-Ya is definitely the best that I've had!

rghgkgmg said...

Yu-meya is the best quality sushi in the south bay.
I first met Suga, the owner of Yu-meyas when he was a sushi chef at Tokies in Foster City many years ago.
When he opened his own restaurant in the south bay I was so exited because I live in San Jose.
My favorite is his Spicy Scallop hand roll. It's just down right wonderful!!! My wife and I frequent his place and just let him surprise us with what he wants to give us.
I tried his Grilled Squid for the first time this past week and it put Tanto's to shame. It was excellent!
I Highly recommend Yumeyas!!! The sushi is first class!!!