Yabani has a new address and of course with it comes a whole new look. Its first loctaion, designed by esteemed Bernard Khoury, was located in Achrafieh and accessed through a large elevator which takes you underground into the restaurant. Just a few weeks ago, Yabani, one of the first Japanese restaurants in town has moved into a more eclectic and modern space, designed by Riad Kamel, Architectes Anonymes, in the heart of Downtown Beirut.
I had the chance to be one of the first guests to try the new Yabani. I won't be going into too much tasting details tonight since it was the first time the kitchen operates. Despite that, the food was simply exquisite! The place is incredible and worth looking into:
- Reach a glass space, opened to the busy streets of Downtown Beirut from two sides
- Grey concrete floors
- At the entrance, a bar welcomes you before moving forward to the first dining space
- A black column divides the space into two distinct dining areas
- A high ceiling covered with glass panels makes the space look twice as big, while a large design chandelier pend from the ceiling
- Wood is all over the place, decorating the walls, especially the high parts with parallel design panels
- In the middle, the black metallic column is crafted and back-lit
- Stairs take you to the restrooms: the most beautiful part of the restaurant and should not be missed.
- A large piece of art of a Japanese knife, crafted in white marble, decorate the wall on the right.
- Wooden tables fill in the space and have a grey stripe each decorating it. Grey fabrics design chairs surround them
- To the left, from side to side is the rolling bar where a busy group of chefs prepare the orders
- Take a look at the high walls, they are not to be missed. Dozens of layers of wood from different colors change the straight wall into a design piece
- Light grey marble tiles are used everywhere adding class and finesse
- Under the facing wall is a long bench
- High glass facades give a view on the busy streets of Beirut
The menu sections:
- Breaded Agemono
- Cold Specials
- Hot Specials
- Beef Specials
- From the grill
- Hozo Maki
- Crispy Ura Maki
- Ura Maki
- Nigiri Sushi
- Gunkan Sushi
- Special Maki
The food at Yabani is exquisite: Tonight, we tried an average of 15 different choices out of 117 choice available on the menu. What's more impressive in my opinion, is the fact that it was a pre-opening night and everything was just perfect.
- The Chicken Salad mixed (003) with al dente cooked noodles was excellent. Served in a bowl with yuzu and mustard sauce, this salad redefines tasty food. I loved the crunchy black seeds enjoyed at the end of every bite.
- The Scallop Tiradito (032) was impeccable, even more than exquisite. Thin sliced scallops marinated in Yuzu sauce and topped with rocotto chili and green coriander. With a hint of sea salt and just enjoy.
- The King Crab salad (038) will make your heart skip a beat. A tiny little portion of pure enjoyment.
- Even Salmon Sashimi (035) was unique. Mixed with chives, yuzu and ginger the salmon bites offer more than the taste we all know.
- The Slow Cooked Salmon (040) and its spicy sour sauce was breathtaking. Juicy, light and cooked to perfection.
- A plate that must be ordered is the Black Cod (042) which comes with a special miso paste marination. Three days of marination, long hours of cooking, caramelized layers, juicy heart and some mouthwatering sauce. Yumm...
- After that came the Rock Shrimp tempura (039) served with a creamy spicy sauce. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed its presentation. At Yabani, there is no cabbage filling the bottom of the bowls, just pure fish and enjoyment.
- The Panko Salmon (062) may look like the crispy salmon salad we all know but this one has a touch of finesse that comes with an upscaled sauce. I loved it.
(048) Grade 7 Wagyu Beef: If you think you've eaten the best and most flavorful meat on earth, you're mistaken. And if you think you know what tender and soft meat feels like, then think again... at $100 a piece, served cut in cubes, I've had the finest meat imaginable. For added pleasure, add a hint of sea salt and rediscover food.
Afterwards, maki rolls followed then some Yabani special rolls. Tonight, every dish has been mastered to perfection at Yabani. Every ingredient is unique, every mix is calculated, every color and texture has its place on the plate. Some ingredients have been imported from different parts of the world just to please the demanding clientele seeking perfection - meat from Japan, ice cream from the Bahamas... and more...yes, Yabani's menu is not like anything Lebanon has ever offered before.
Let's dessert: I wasn't a big fan of the Yabani's ice cream munchkins "The Mochi Ice-Cream" that were cut in three parts, filled with average ice cream. Although what is served now do share the same name, they are tastier and better. Cut in two, every piece is filled with flavorful ice cream and a chewy envelop that will remind you of Rice Halawa sold at local sweet shops. A great way to end dinner in style.
The details I liked:
- Welcome to a luxurious Japanese restaurant.
- There are no photos on the menu just 117 orders in numbers
- I admire the fact that they don't use any of those ugly plastic green leaves
- The decor is breathtaking
- The waiters are well trained and professional
- The restrooms are a must see to. Discover an architectural innovation up the stairs
Preparing itself for a grand opening, Yabani's new look and new approach will definitely make noise in town. I will be passing by for a detailed review within the weeks to come, meanwhile enjoy the photos and give us your opinion if you decide to give it a try.