By Benjamin Cost
Yuexin Restaurant opened its doors in January, unveiling two adjacent venues: a traditional Chinese eatery and a Japanese spot. In need of a cleansing raw fish fix after weeks of fatty pork belly, Munchies‘ grease-laden burgers, and post-binge pillages of the McDonald’s dollar menu, we chose to go Japanese.
Lackluster first impression
However, between entering the glass doors to whipping open the menu, we were greeted by a flurry of warning signs that Yuexin might not be the sushi savior we were seeking.
First off, there are no seats at the sushi bar, which is kind’ve like having no front row at a sports match. Not only would we would miss out on the always-thrilling showmanship aspect of sushi-cheffing, but there would be no way to ensure that the chefs weren’t, you know, using a chisel to extract our sashimi from an ice block.
Second, the menu listed a hotel buffet’s worth of items from traditional Japanese sashimi to not-so-traditional-Japanese “New Zealand lamb chops” and a dish labeled in epic Chinglish, “Crisp Handheld Devices” (nothing like a Verizon Wireless ringtone to announce your indigestion). This indicated that the restaurant might not pay the right amount of care to the sushi as its attention would be dispersed over so many options.
But we weren’t ones to judge before actually sampling the fare, so we browsed the menu, noting three main sushi plate options: the large for four (188RMB), the medium for two (148RMB), and the individual platter (98RMB). Each spread includes surf clam, salmon roe, crab roe, tuna, egg, amberjack, and salmon sushi, give or take a couple options.
All the sushi are formerly frozen, and the only fresh option on the menu is an amberjack dish that’s not included on any of the platters, which, unfortunately, they were out of that day. So we tacked on a personal favorite, uni (sea urchin) for 38RMB, and an assorted tempura plate (78RMB).
To our dismay, with the arrival of our food came a delayed warning sign; the “wasabi” (a.k.a horseradish with green food coloring and mustard seeds), came in a tube and had to be squeezed out onto the soy sauce platelet like sunscreen. Oh, and it was glowing green like the ooze from Ninja Turtles.
We dabbed some up with our chopsticks, and pressed it to our tongue tips, sparking a ferocious burning which blasted hotly out our noses, and pushed at the back of our eyes until tears popped out. The fourth fake wasabi ingredient had to be radioactive gamma rays.
The sushi delivers
Luckily, the sushi didn’t come in a tube, and was actually edible as it was served room temp with no off-putting fishy flavor. The salmon proved flabby, melt-in-your-mouth, and housed no gristly bits, and the tuna one-upped it by evaporating into pure succulence in mid-chew. And the uni, the only dish that was supposed to be a tad funky, was.
The rest of the sushi tastily followed suit, though our surf-clam was a touch chewy, reminding us more of a gummy-bear representation of a surf clam than the real thing. We also weren’t too enthralled with the tempura, which, for a crunchy and greasy guilty pleasure in the same vein as KFC chicken, was a bit steeply priced.
Ultimately, despite having a lousy first impression, Yuexin did satiate our sushi cravings. Yes, you pay a bit, but then again, if you ever see a venue advertising heavily marked down sushi prices, run.
And while we won’t be talking about the meal into next week, we still recommend it for the average sushi-vore looking for decently fresh fish with the textures and flavors you’d expect of any solid sushi spot. And considering we’re in China, the actual birthplace of sushi, you shouldn’t expect anything less.
Yuexin Restaurant – 428 Jiangning Road, near Wuding Road (江宁路428号, 近武定路). Tel: (0)21-6218-9597. Hours: 5pm-12am.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].