What do you get when you pair authentic Japanese fare with a nation that loves to indulge in quality cuisine? A fresh (and we do mean fresh) concept that sets the standards of culinary preparation to an even higher level – but with a Kuwaiti twist.
Mirroring its name, Yuba is an intimate, yet welcoming restaurant tucked within the ground floor of Kuwait City’s Crystal Tower. Experiencing the fusion of the food gives you enough to talk about with your dining counterparts.
Where does the Kuwaiti twist come in, you may ask? Let’s start off with the name. Yuba, the traditional Japanese term for “tofu” also ties in with a charming double entendre term of endearment in the Kuwaiti dialect, loosely translating to “father” or a warm pet name you would give an older man out of respect.
Kuwaiti and Middle Eastern traditions alike quietly work themselves into the predominately Japanese menu, starting with the splash of Kuwaiti euphemisms printed throughout the menu’s sections. Drinks are named with whimsical local phrases, such as “3atni May w Gouti” (give me water and a can).
An array of appetizers was presented to us, starting with The Yuba Salad: a lovely dish bursting with a medley of flavors. Comprised of mixed leafy greens, fried wonton, chives, spring onion, sesame seeds and herbs, this salad had a gorgeous addition of crispy harusame chicken, cooked to perfection with a sous vide method to enhance flavor. We then tasted the fusion of cultures in the Yuba Halloumi Caprese – a delightful appetizer of two skewers containing grilled chunks of teriyaki glazed halloumi cheese – a local favorite – paired with charred cherry tomatoes.
Momentarily leaving Arab influences, we traveled to the Japanese focused Crispy Tuna Tartare. Yuba exclusively uses fresh Bluefin tuna, shipped whole and never frozen from Japan on a weekly basis. This standard in quality elevates the taste of the tartare, sitting delicately upon a single serving bed of crispy sushi rice. Upon sampling the perfectly seasoned, a burst of spice explodes on the palate, courtesy of the spicy caviar blended in the with premium chunks of fresh tuna. We revisited the Bluefin tuna shortly after in the form of O-Toro Sashimi. The Bluefin tuna sashimi is melt-in-your-mouth perfect, made with the high-quality tuna cut from the belly of the Tuna – the area that contains the highest amount of good fats – Omega 3.
The sushi at Yuba is superior, due to the freshness of the seafood on offer at the restaurant. What sets the sushi aside, however, is the option to have it rolled with machboos spiced rice. You could of course, opt for the classic option, but the sushi/machboos hybrid is an interesting experience to say the least. Don’t forget, your sushi must be paired with the freshest of the fresh wasabi. Yuba’s wasabi is authentic, straight from Japan, and grated on a sharkskin grater to form the authentic wasabi paste made by hand before your eyes at your table. This wasabi is served exclusively with raw items, as it traditionally acts as an antibacterial agent to pair with raw fish – this is why the well-informed staff members at Yuba vehemently urge diners to apply the wasabi directly on the flesh of the fish.
Yuba specializes in Robata, the Japanese method of cooking fireside, where food is slow cooked atop hot charcoal. When ordering a Robata grilled item, expect a beautiful, tender finish similar to the likes of what we experienced with the Gindara – Black Cod filet. Tangy with a touch of sweet, this dish highlights the benefits of taste that robata grilling gives to a piece of meat.
In terms of lobster, you’re led to the live lobster tank at the front of the restaurant, where you can select your lobster of choice. Chef then flame grills it, with a side of clarified butter lemon sauce – the ideal pairing to the already tender, succulent protein.
We also couldn’t resist The Bop n Bowl – an experience we knew we couldn’t miss. The Yuba Bop is perhaps the most culturally integrated bowl on the menu, melding Japanese rice in a Quzi styled fashion, using slow roasted, quzi shredded lamb shank and binding it all in with a classic laban (buttermilk) sauce.
But what’s a great meal at a wonderful restaurant without a sweet ending? A bite (or two!) of the truly indulgent Fried Ice Cream, coated with cornflakes, caramelized ginger, cinnamon syrup and the innovative karak tea sauce was absolutely heavenly, and wrapped up the unique concept of marrying two delicious cultures in one. Believe us – it works!
Yuba is located on the ground floor of Crystal Tower in Ahmed Al Jaber street, Kuwait City. They can be reached at 2297 0022, and follow them on Instagram @yuba_kuwait.
Photography by Yousef Al Nasser.