Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Sept. 23
Yu Me Ya!
The word yumeya means "house of dreams" in Japanese, and that is what one family created in Encinitas, with Yu Me Ya Sake House, about six years ago. More recently, the family ("Dad, Mom, and 2 sisters") opened up a second shop in Hillcrest, on the corner of Fourth and University. My man and I are heading to Tokyo on a food tour in a few days, and we wanted to get our oishi on early.
We went for ramen, because there's a huge sign hanging outside that claims "killer ramen" is inside, but it turns out ramen at Yu Me Ya is ONLY on Friday and Saturday night, late (between 9 p.m. and midnight). I almost turned around, but then I noticed the extensive sake collection, the funky decor, and the warm attitude emanating from the man behind the counter (not a member of the family, but a thoroughly informed and appropriately dispositioned front-of-the-house gentleman).
At our server's suggestion, I began with a Coedo. I chose the Beniaka, one of the five flavors. It's made from sweet potatoes in the northern part of Tokyo. Lightly sweet, with a full, sweet potato-finish, it's an appetizer in itself.
Because we had a few minutes left of happy hour, we ordered some of the "hot tapas." The kurobuta sausages were yum, flavorful little wieners worthy of Nathan's, served with a simple mustard. David also ordered some fried bits -- shrimp and pork on sticks, in the Yakitori fashion.
But I had a hankering for something soupy. Fortunately, though ramen wasn't available, there was udon noodle soup on the menu. The udon is made fresh in house, daily, and I could tell. The broth was light, sweet, and satisfying. I ordered the udon with marinated tofu, which was also on the sweet side. David got the shrimp tempura, which came with more than shrimp, a nice surprise.
The place is warm and inviting, the servers and cooks are smiling and helpful, and we could tell the owners take their food seriously. I can't wait to go back late on a Friday night and try the ramen.