Page 2 of 3
Things had been far more frustrating on my first venture into the restaurant, accompanied by friends Bob, Joy and Kitty.
Yoshiko was packed that busy Friday night, with customers perched around all twelve of the dining room's shiny, steel grills. Things got off on a bad note when we were escorted to our communal grill and realized we'd be sharing the space with a bunch of unfriendly zombies. "They all look as if they have chopsticks stuck up their asses," whispered Joy, who looked enviously at a waitress carrying a giant, flaming cocktail ("The Volcano") across the room. "All the other tables are having more fun than we are."
It didn't help that our server was a poorly trained, stressed-out kid who spent more time apologizing for things the kitchen didn't have (including the "magic mushroom" appetizer, which we'd ordered only because it sounded psychedelic) than bringing food. The one appetizer we did get was hilariously awful: The "firecracker shrimp" was wrapped in wonton petals, flash-fried and served with a dipping sauce that tasted like melted orange marmalade. "They would have been better as table decorations than something to eat," Joy said.
I was intrigued by the five vegetarian items listed on the menu -- three have since been deleted from the new bill of fare -- so I ordered a soy-based "steak and shrimp" dinner. Our waiter, moon-faced Bobby, returned thirty minutes later and told me that the kitchen was out of it. "You want to try the fake sea bass?" he asked. I nixed the idea (wisely, as it turned out) and ordered chicken and steak. (I was still charged for the vegetarian dinner at the end of the night. Thanks, Bobby!)
The dinner prices include a watery miso soup, a tiny iceberg salad doused with tart ginger dressing, and green tea, which we never received. Our hunky chef, a native of Micronesia, wasn't exactly the Wayne Newton of the teppan-yaki grill, but he was personable enough going through the tired routine of flipping shakers, spinning eggs and chopping vegetables. We each ordered various combination dinners, and Bob was impressed that the beef in his Yoshiko Special (it also included chicken and shrimp) was a juicy slab of Kansas City strip instead of some tougher cut. But the harried server, the noise level in the dining room, and our insufferable tablemates turned him off. Not even a dessert of chalky, green-tea ice cream or fresh-tasting mango sorbet could cheer him up. "I never want to come back here again," he said.
He refused to return for my second visit, on a much quieter Wednesday night, with Lou Jane. She pronounced the place "attractive but cold," until she warmed herself up with a saketini that, she said, was "more sake than martini." I ordered hot tea, but it was slightly cooler than lukewarm.
This time we were seated with a happy group -- coworkers at Park College -- who actually spoke to us! The Matt Damon look-alike warned me away from the vegetarian sea bass: "I tried it on my last visit, and it smelled horrible and was one of the worst things I ever tasted."
I ordered a steak-and-shrimp deal instead, and Lou Jane chose one of the four soba-noodle offerings, made with Kansas City strip. "What kind of rice you want with that?" the waitress asked. Lou Jane's eyebrows shot up: "Rice with noodles?" She picked steamed rice, which arrived after she had finished dinner.