Grilled skewers and good vibes at this cosy izakaya
The first in a string of 2019 openings for the Les Amis Group, Yujin Izakaya was founded in a full circle move by a husband-and-wife duo who were part of the Les Amis opening team. Chef-owner Freddie Lee incorporates his longtime fascination with Japanese culture—into the decor, the food—for a casual space perfect for catchups over Japanese bites.
The hype: The first in a string of 2019 openings for the Les Amis Group, Yujin Izakaya was founded in a full circle move by a husband-and-wife duo who were part of the Les Amis restaurant opening team. Chef-owner Freddie Lee incorporates his longtime fascination with Japanese culture—into the decor, the food—for a casual space perfect for catchups over Japanese bites.
The vibe: Taking over the former space of Bistro Du Vin, the spacious restaurant enjoys a prime spot on Zion Road; its modern industrial-chic furnishing stands out strikingly from its neighbours. Framed manga artworks line exposed brick walls—courtesy of Chef Lee’s childhood manga obsession—adding more vibrancy into the already welcoming space. Take a seat at the open kitchen; though really, you’ll feel at home anywhere.
The food: Chef Lee may have been trained in European cuisine, but his professional foray into Japanese sits well on the eyes and the stomach. A no-frills menu of Japanese skewered items, hot and cold appetisers, and grilled plates makes ordering for groups a breeze.
Start with the Beef Tataki ($15)—fresh and tender with a burst of tartness from the ponzu sauce; or a Truffle Chawanmushi ($15) with its smokier aroma, if that’s how you roll. The Katsu Sando ($16) is another easy favourite, US katsu beef sandwiched between toasted bread and pommery mustard.
But it’s the focus on the grill that makes sharing optimal and enjoyable here. There’s the fail-safe skewered chicken parts—Momo (thigh, $4), Kawa (skin, $4); and the Tebasaki (wing, $5) and Bonjiri (tail, $4) that are particularly flavourful. More daring meat options include ox tongue and eel—but maybe skip those and get the juicy Tontoro ($15) Iberico pork jowl instead, a plate you could easily devour on your own. The vegetables too deserve special mention—the Eringi ($8) king oyster mushroom, Nasu ($6) eggplant and Satsuma Imo ($5) sweet potato are charred just right without losing their natural juices.
Finish on a sweet note with dessert—the ice cream ($6) is unexpectedly tasty for the fact that this is after all an izakaya; be sure to ask for vanilla or salted caramel.
The drinks: Yujin Izakaya is just as much a standalone bar as it is a dining spot. Pick your poison from a full menu of sakes, highballs, wines, and non-alcoholic Chuhai. For cocktail lovers, Yujin has five—the Shochu Mojito ($13) and Sparkling Yuzu ($11) are refreshing picks any time of the day. All that said, you can never really go wrong with a beer—especially when it’s a delightfully smooth Sapporo Premium Draft ($7 for 235ml).
Why you’ll be back: With its ambiance and location, Yujin Izakaya makes a great hidden gem for unwinding with friends—close enough to town without being caught in the harried mess of it. The food is elegant without being pretentious, and there’s just enough originality and unbridled fun here to keep it from becoming yet another forgotten izakaya.