Sushi restaurants are popping up on every corner and the more this trend is expanding the more the quality is declining. As a fan of Sushi I am always on the lookout for good and decent sushi places and if I can't find any, I revisit some of my favourite places like Le Sushi Bar or Yabani to indulge in some tasty Japanese food.
I recently visited Yabani, one of Lebanon's most popular sushi restaurants. The last time I went there was around a year ago
, during which many have told me that the food quality and taste has declined. But of course, I had to see for myself.
The Yabani building incorporates a two-storey concrete structure below ground level and a fourteen-meter high steel tower above ground. The tower contains a mobile reception room that travels vertically within a circular glass perimeter from the street level to the restaurant level below ground. The guests’ seating is laid out in a circular configuration around the mobile transparent reception that animates the center of the plan. The vertical circulation of the guests’ arrival and departure is intentionally over-exposed as the reception lounge becomes the focal point around which the seating plan is generated. The restaurant interior is exposed to the sky through generous “walk-on” glass windows located at ground level.
Arrive to Yabani, a landmark created by architect Bernard Khoury in Sodeco area to be welcomed by a host that takes you down the elevator. This person can create an hypnotic first impression just by saying something... anything. Anything welcoming to break the silence in those few seconds while the elevator takes you underground. Arriving down below, a manager takes you to your table before the hostesses ask you about the order.
Soft lounge music accompanied us throughout our pleasant dinner which took more than two hours, that passed fluently.
The place is nice. Some say its claustrophobic but I personally like it. A round space underground around the elevator and a bar with glass openings in the ceiling, which opens to show the street's action. Six individual tables separated by walls host four guests each on leather sofas. In the middle, four tables of which the biggest one that can host 10 guests. I like the use of glass almost everywhere which makes the space look bigger and wider.
The menu sections:
- Business lunch
- Salads and starters
- Breaded age mono
- Soup noodles
- Cooked noodles
- From the grill
- Special from the grill
- Rice and vegetables
- Sashimi on Ice
- Nigiri Sushi
- Gunkan Sushi
- Hozo Maki
- Crispy and Panko Ura Maki
- Ura Maki
- Temaki special Yabani
- Zumo Maki
- Crazy Family
- The wine and water glasses
- The relaxing chairs
- The nice setup which doesn't make you feel underground
- No fish smell in this confined space
The food is tasty and fresh:
- The Salmon quality is very good
- The quality of the ingredients is great
- The overall taste is good
- I would definitely prefer the Nori to be crunchy not spongy
- I loved the Temaki cones
- Head Over Hills salad as mentioned last year contains way too much mayonnaise
- The new style salmon sashimi with sesame seeds is close to perfection
- The Shake Izuzukuri salmon plate is awesome
Food is tasty and still one of the best in town. The salmon is fresh and non oily, rice is adequately cooked and the creations are innovative and full of taste. Unfortunately, I don't see the logic of dinner costing $70/person without alcohol. Yabani is expensive.
The service is bad and not up to the amount paid nor the standard of the restaurant:
- Two girls were handling our section... Two teenagers far from being up to the standard of Yabani
- A huge lack of training and know-how
- No smile, no welcoming attitude, they were busy browsing their iPads all night long
- I was served Perrier with ice without the question: "Ice and a lemon slice?"
- One of the two waitresses, who looked stressed, grabbed the order paper and waved it like a fan on herself
- 09:20 and still nobody asked what we want to order. Slow service indeed.
I didn't like:
- The menu and its photos do not reflect the place and its scale. It looks cheap. I'm not comparing but I think it should be close to that at Le Sushi Bar and not like a menu served at a fast food Japanese restaurants
- The four logos (vegetarian, contains raw fish, spicy and very spicy) make the menu look like we're in a Lebanese restaurant adding to that the Arabic notes under it
- Dirty restrooms
- Desserts are still the same: Not tasty and not up to the restaurant's standard
- Please can you stop using those ugly green and cheap grass separators
- I asked for a San Pellegrino that was not available. The waitress proposed Perrier instead. Just for your general information, San Pellegrino has nothing to do with Perrier and are not to be compared. With Sushi, San Pellegrino is a must have since it's a light sparkling water that doesn't eliminate the real flavours of the Japanese rolls. It is one of the best drinks to have with sushi when alcohol is no planned
- Prices are way too high for what you get
A must change:
- An intensive training for the waiters
- A classier menu
- Add San Pellegrino to the drinks menu
- Fine tune the desserts
I like Yabani and would surely come back again. It still is one of the best Japanese restaurants in town positioned on the Top 3 podium. A place we expect a lot from should have a more mature and trained staff.