Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dinner at Yoko Uno - Gourmet, Gourmet, Gourmet...

Picture by Drew Kaplan

This was about to be good.
"All you can eat" sushi, raving reviews saying this was probably the best (kosher) sushi in Tel Aviv... it seemed we just couldn't go wrong.  Right?
After some difficulty finding the place amongst the maze of buildings of Ramat Gan's Diamond Trade Complex, we finally found it and made our way in.
The setting, while certainly trying to convey a sense of austerity and zen, was just gray and gloomy. Also surprisingly... we were utterly alone. The waitress tried to seat us in a what looked like a cubicle and was coincidentally in full view of the kitchen entrance, for her convenience. We politely refused and asked to be seated next to the large fish tank.
If not for the grim sight of a very large dead fish being ravenously eaten away by other fish, this was at least the most lively spot in the restaurant.
We were a bit worried when we were told that the "all you can eat" deal consisted of a small plate of different sushi. We could order that same plate over and over again. But basically, we didn't get to choose anything and were stuck with whatever they would serve us.
Our first round of sushi came amazingly fast and consisted of this:

First plate, minus one salmon skin

2 salmon inside out rolls: salmon, salmon skin, veggies. Served with a nice slab of fatty salmon on top, this was a good start and we wished there wouldn't be just two.

2 tuna inside out rolls: tuna and sweet potato. Very bland and the fish itself, though seemingly fresh, felt pasty in the mouth.  Sweet potato and tuna just don't go together.

2 veggie futomaki rolls: kampio, omelet (not tamago!), pickled daikon, cucumber and carrot. Nice sweet and salty bite. Less rice would have made these much more enjoyable. 

8 makis: mostly made out of thickly caked rice with a tiny piece of cucumber or salmon. Incredibly filling and almost hard to eat. We lovingly called these "The fillers". As a word of caution, try to stay away from these if you want your money's worth.

Since I never had this type of set "all you can eat" platter, I found myself in a dilemma. I didn't like half of what I had been served and asking for another round meant either suffer and eat it all again or leave what I didn't like, which feels a bit rude.
We then decided to order another plate, but asked the waitress not to add anymore makis, since we didn't particularly enjoyed them. She told us that's how the plate is made and could not be changed.
Could not be changed?!
We are alone in a 200 seat restaurant and they could not be accommodating enough to spare us the embarrassment of leaving off 8 rolls every time we ordered?
This was both absurd and liberating, as we didn't feel guilty anymore.

We finished the second plate and 8 neatly aligned makis marched back into the kitchen.
We ordered another round.
As our waitress walked by the restaurant counter and asked the sushi Chef a third order this is what transpired:

Waitress: Another order please.
Sushi Chef: What?! They already ordered two times!

The sushi Chef looked at our table angrily and realized I was looking at her the whole time, wide eyed.
Well, it was clear we would not go back to that restaurant, but we ordered another 5 plates just to make sure she figures out the true meaning of ALL YOU CAN EAT!

As it went, it got worse and slight changes took place, like the missing salmon skin and the sweet potato being substituted for cooked carrot. It was hard enough to eat the tuna roll as it was, now it was plain terrible. Who in it's right mind would put a thick log of cooked carrot in a sushi roll?

We decided to call it quits and asked for the bill and this is what we got:

Since when 2 times 54 equals 118?

YokoUno, with it's standard sushi, second grade fish and cooked carrot shenanigans might impress anyone new to this cuisine, but will disappoint any seasoned sushi eater.

Score: 5/10


  1. 5 is generous....
    I would give them 5 for the food, 3 for the look of the place (too crowded&lively for my taste) and um, -10 for the service.

  2. Indeed, but I reserve anything below 5 to the very bad. This restaurant, because it's kosher, occupies a "niche". There aren't all that many around and I'm guessing they might be worse than this (yes, it is possible!).

  3. Sadly, I can't say I'm surprised.
    Sushi is, almost exclusively, seafood based.
    Trying to run a Kosher sushi restaurant and keep its standards high, its menu interesting and versatile and to cater to a gourmet clientele is almost impossible.

    I have yet to hear about a Kosher sushi joint that can compete with a non-kosher one.

  4. Is fish not kosher?
    I am sorry for your bad sushi experience. :( The sushi in the picture look sad.

  5. Any fish without scales, like eel for example, is not considered kosher. Plus, no seafood, clams, squid or such. If you add to this the fact that Israel is not exactly rich when it comes to fish variety, it gets down to a sad list of perhaps 5 or 6 sorts of fish that are suitable for sushi (salmon, tuna, mackerel, seabass, tilapia... any more?). But kosher is not a excuse, it's a challenge that calls for creativity.

  6. Hi Alexandra! -
    I've also been disappointed by YokoUno - What was once the best Kosher Sushi place in Tel Aviv has, well, you described it much better than me.
    If anyone wants to see my review of YokoUno, check out
    I also have reviews of other Kosher Sushi places in Tel Aviv.