Courtesy of Panda Restaurant Group, I was allowed to preview the new restaurant before its grand opening on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 5:00 PM.
The partnership with Panda Express comes as the company looks to bring interesting overseas concepts to the American market, similar to the launch of Uncle Tetsu earlier this fall.
YakiYan serves yakiniku in the omakase style: Rather than selecting various cuts of meat a la carte as you might with Korean barbecue or other yakiniku restaurants, diners will be served the chef's tasting menu that encompasses a variety of cuts and preparations. The menu will change regularly but includes vegetarian-fed, all-natural USDA Prime grade beef, American wagyu from Snake River Farms, and imported Japanese wagyu. In addition, the restaurant features a small plates menu and bar in case you haven't the time or inclination for the full two-hour tasting experience.
Each course typically consisted of a specific cut of meat and was cooked at the table grill by our servers, who were incredibly knowledgeable regarding the different offerings. While grilling, each server explained not only the cut of the beef, but the origin, expected taste profile, and breed information and were able to answer any additional questions we had.
chawanmushi, a savory egg custard with sea urchin, popularly known as uni, and mushroom. Uni has a briny, salty taste and velvety texture that went well with the silky egg.
tataki, carpaccio, and tartare. The meat was pounded to great tenderness and flavored with light but complementary marinades. The tartare was served in a ponzu-based dressing with a raw egg mixed in, whereas the carpaccio was topped with yuzu jelly and slivered almonds. The tataki was lightly salted and served with garlic and ginger on the side.
For the fifth and sixth courses, we received American wagyu boneless short rib. American wagyu is a cross-breed of Angus and Japanese wagyu and has the desirable marbling of the Japanese breed while retaining the strong beef flavor that American cows are known for.
By and large, you can expect a decadent dining experience at YakiYan for a very reasonable price. The chef's tasting menu currently runs between $50 to $70, although the price is subject to change along with the menu. Considering the typical cost of the premium cuts featured on the menu, the price is very competitive. This is the dining experience for those who like to savor their food and enjoy an interactive cooking experience. It's certainly a unique experience, especially in comparison to Korean barbecue, and one which I consider very worthwhile.
Panda Express has future plans to open some more locations, although it will be a small expansion considering the target market of YakiYan's concept.