“Pork Belly”

There’s something special about those two words that cause tears of happiness to swell in my eyes. Cured, uncured, roasted, braised, fried, grilled… no matter what you do to it, it will always taste good. At Yasu, it was simple and au naturel. Aww, so naturally delicious.

Yasu served the most banchan (side dishes) I’ve ever seen. From cold pasta noodles, to black beans, to the multiple pickled vegetables, it was a great way to enhance barbecue meat and nibble on something different from time to time. Since we ordered unseasoned pork belly (Sam Gyeop Sal) and unseasoned beef brisket (Cha Dol Bae Gi), my handy friend, Chae, taught me how to properly eat like a true Korean.

With the side of lettuce leaves given, take a leaf, put some rice on it, dip the grilled meat in various sauces, add some marinated onions and lettuce (Pa Jae Rae Gi)  and fold everything in that baby up. Voilà! Although you may feel more Korean, do not advance too far and attempt K-Pop choreography. We leave that one to the pros.

There are also marinated meats, such as the popular Kal-Bi (marinated prime rib) that everyone loves. The flavors are a combination of mouthwatering savory and sweet. I didn’t order it, but have enjoyed it at other restaurants. This was actually the first time I had unseasoned meat, and surprisingly, I liked it!

I also genuinely enjoyed Yasu as a whole, but after eating Korean BBQ in the west coast, it’s tough to rate the same type of cuisine in Boston. The main reason for this is the price difference. For two people with two BBQ meats that came with rice and bancha, the cost was roughly $40 ($20 per plate). For 7-8 pieces of thinly sliced meat, it’s a steep price and you can get more for the amount for the same price in California. But let’s face it- we’re in Boston and certain options are limited. Knowing this hinders my encounters with Korean BBQ restaurants, but it will not stop me coming back to Yasu if I am craving it.

Even though I still haven’t found a place that reminds me of California’s BBQ, Yasu is great for newbie Korean BBQ’ers like me. The menu is also quite extensive compared to similar restaurants. There is a full sushi bar, Japanese entrees such as Katsus, and a number of other Korean dishes. Accompany your lunch or dinner with their wine and imported beer, and I’m sure you will find this to be a comfortably open-spaced restaurant with great service, spot on food and a fun way to prepare your own meal.

I recommend Yasu, but I am still anxious to explore potentially better Korean restaurants. I may find some, I may not, but bottom line is that the service was great, the BBQ experience was fun and engaging (definitely a great date idea) and the meat with 10 different types of banchan was certainly a crowd pleaser. 

If you’re ever around the Coolidge Corner, I encourage you to turn onto Beacon Street and think about how nice it is to have BBQ during the winter of Boston. If you catch yourself smiling, that means you should give this place a try.

Thanks for keeping BBQ alive in the chilly weather of Boston, Yasu
Total Meal: ~$40 (2 meat dishes, side dishes and rice)
Servings: 2 people

Yasu on Urbanspoon

Bistro 5

What happened in that restaurant is something I will never forget. The keyword here is “raviolo”- not ravioli, just a single raviolo. Before I get into details about the pillow of god-like food laid on a plate before me during that divine minute, it’s important to know what Bistro 5 is all about.

Walking into the restaurant, booths proudly show off their French pinstripes, romantic Spanish colors glow warmly throughout the area, and colorful, energetic paintings speak to you through Italian text. Somehow, you understand all three cultures by simply opening your eyes, but you are almost fluent when you taste the cuisine.

Chef and owner Vittorio Ettore has managed to transform a simple corner of West Medford into something truly amazing. I personally believe the first impression of a restaurant should be made through its tasting menu. To my delight, Bistro 5 offers just that, with options for a $65 five course meal ($25 wine pairing) and $45 for three courses ($20 wine pairing). I opted for five courses and Chef du Cuisine, Joe Carlie, made two specific dishes stand out illustriously.

The dinner started with homemade focaccia bread served with smooth chickpea puree with basil, lemon, Parmesan and olive oil. It was definitely a great way to begin the evening.

Foie Gras Mousse and Vincotto - $6

I also had the Foie Gras Mousse and Vincotto, which is something I will order again and again. The mousse was as light as a cloud, while the richness of cream did not take away from the highlight of the dish. This was certainly a great way to start my five courses.

Oysters on the Half Shell

The first course consisted of oysters on the half shell prepared in two ways: passion fruit gelée and cornmeal crusted with Meyer lemon. After such a great appetizer, I felt somewhat underwhelmed with this one. There was no harmony from the combination of ingredients. The fruit flavor overpowered the potentially beautiful brininess of the oyster and the cornmeal crust nearly diminished it. I hoped that the next course was much better.

Egg Yolk Raviolo with Wild Mushrooms

Reader, this is what I’m talking about. THE raviolo. It is fresh pasta with homemade truffled ricotta cheese and a quail egg yolk that oozes upon breaking, creating the most blissfully satisfying sauce. Immediately after my first bite, it was as if all senses were muted except taste. The experience was absolutely sublime and I can only hope they put this on their permanent menu. I might even write a request. This dish would be a hit!

Duck Confit & Apple Streusel

The third course was duck confit & apple streusel with kumquat chutney, foie gras “oreo”, and duck prosciutto with a green apple sorbet. The duck confit left a lot to be desired, mainly because the kumquat chutney was delicious but overpowering. The foie gras oreo was very whimsical and fun to eat. Chocolate cookies and fattened liver go well together- who knew? The duck prosciutto and green apple sorbet was my absolute favorite of the three though. Forget the classic prosciutto and cantaloupe combination, this is where it’s at. It was like biting into fresh fruit where the sweetness pleasantly lingered around in my mouth waiting for savory sensations to kick in. And yes, it was well worth the wait.

Roasted Quail

This little bird is jam packed with flavor! I have never had meat so succulent and juicy before. It was perfectly cooked, no superfluous seasonings- just a cooking technique that was executed flawlessly. The quail rested on a bed of Swiss chard, roasted cauliflower and roasted cauliflower purée. The purée was as smooth as silk and tasted incredibly creamy. This must be the “foie gras” for vegetarians. Too bad a bird sits on top of it.

Homemade Doughnuts

And ending the night were homemade doughnuts with strawberries, crème de cassis and vanilla ice cream. The strawberries with cassis were tasty together, but the doughnuts were a bit heavy and doughy. I could have done without this dish, but if the doughnuts were more light and airy, it would certainly be a winner.

So maybe I felt indifferent towards three of the five courses… but the Egg Yolk Raviolo and Roasted Quail not only left me in awe, but also left the inspiring first impression that food lovers like me are always in search of. Finally.

Bravo, Bistro 5!
Total Meal: ~$65
Servings: 1 person
Bistro 5 on Urbanspoon