I admit I’m a little late to the party, being a new but enthusiastic fan of House of Yoshida. Now that I have been several times and tried various dishes, I’m hooked!
Aki Arai grew up in Japan and takes great pride in the authenticity of his Japanese cooking. He brings with him from Japan a love of cooking that is evident in each dish you order here. His work conveys a respect for the art of cooking that is both visually pleasing and flavorful. At our first meeting, we happened to be there on a rare, relatively quiet evening and he actually sat down with us to tell us how he came here from Japan, where he had learned to make sushi in his uncle’s restaurant. It’s hard to believe someone as youthful as Aki has just received a plaque of recognition of 20 years in this location! Not too many places have that kind of longevity anymore. I asked him how he managed through the pandemic years and he said he was very busy. In addition to cooking non-stop for take-out orders, he was busy helping others. He cooked for hospital workers and just about anyone that was in need of a meal. This is a man who loves what he does and it shows.
He told us of regular customers that drive from an hour away, from New Haven or Westport and other surrounding towns. This piqued our curiosity and we asked him what we should order. This was completely unplanned, mind you, and he then thoughtfully asked me what I liked. I said salmon and shrimp were my favorites. As if to say you won’t need a menu, he said “I will cook for you.” In record time, plate after plate began arriving at our table for two. First came the Ora King salmon dish which I can’t recommend enough. I simply can’t go there without ordering it now. It is the freshest, thinly-sliced, quality salmon with sliced onions and garlic in a sweet soy sauce. That probably would have been enough for me but then came the black peppered shrimp, pile of mussels, pepperoncini, sashimi appetizer sampler and tori meshi rice dish. It was a beautifully indulgent display of food, the likes of which I have never had in a Japanese restaurant. We took so much home! What a delightful evening hearing about how he came to this country and what this place meant to him.
I am a loyal customer but I am very discerning about sushi. I tend to go to the same place over and over for that but I knew after the above mentioned meal, I had to come back to try the sushi at Yoshida. My daughter and I sat at the sushi bar on a crowded Friday night. Engaged in great conversation with a local about the place, we had fresh, amazing sushi rolls and of course the Ora King salmon. My usually-picky daughter loved it!
On our latest visit, we went with friends to try the Japanese Fondue called Shabu Shabu. I had tried regular fondue and Korean BBQ where you cook on a flame. This was something different. Large pots of steaming fish soup broth on a heater boil away while you add beautifully cut pieces of cabbage, noodles, scallions, mushrooms and tofu. The vegetables take a while to cook and as they do, you use tongs to dip exquisitely cut slices of beef., holding them in the soup for seconds to get your desired doneness from rare to well done. They are accompanied with two dipping sauces, Ponzu and Sesame, with a hot pepper addition and sliced onions if desired. The flavors are sublime and delicious! It was quite an experience. We happened to have two Culinary Institute of America students with us. Simon Dickinson said, “It was a fun and unique experience” and Gabe Obadia said, “It was well plated, great service, staff was friendly with food made to order. We had a great time and I highly recommend families come here to have a great dine-in experience.” Please note that Shabu Shabu requires 24-hour notice with your reservation if you want Shabu Shabu, due to the required preparation time.
Do not miss this 2021 winner of the Best Hidden Gem and Best Overall Value award. You will not be disappointed!