It's a not-so-secret secret that a fair number of Japanese restaurants are Korean-owned. Chances are good your neighborhood all-you-can-eat sushi joint is, and your favorite ramen spot might be, too. One example: Chinatown's Ramen Hashi, whose outstanding chicken-based broth proves that exemplary Japanese food isn't limited to Japanese chefs and restaurateurs.
Being a Hashi devotee, I was excited to hear a sister venue, Garlic Yuzu, had opened in the southwest Valley. When you visit the new eatery on Durango just north of Warm Springs, you're almost guaranteed to meet chef Kyung Hong, a dining room fixture who's been swinging by tables multiple times during meals to check in with diners. Simply put, it's refreshing to see a chef work a room like this.
Hong has created a menu highlighting both his Korean heritage and his background as a Morimoto alumnus. Hong tweaks kanpachi serrano, a Japanese menu staple, by adding his yuzu caviar, which provides bursts of citrus flavor. Even better is the unique, home-smoked ocean trout—lightly smoked seafood touched up with salty, funky miso.
Grilled eggplant salad pairs a sizable mixed greens salad tossed in a yuzu vinaigrette with smoky, meat-like Japanese eggplant, all accented by garlic crumbs and grilled shishito peppers. The mild chilies reappear in the innovative shishito pepper soup—the green, creamy concoction adorned with shishito threads unlike any other bowl in town. It's a must on any Garlic Yuzu visit.
Among entrees, an outstanding spicy pan-seared octopus with baked gabocha—Korean for Japanese pumpkin—and miso-baked onions accented by Korean gochujang chili sauce awaits. A robust U4 tiger shrimp risotto made with herbal gondre (Korean thistle) rice is another great choice, while the miso Duroc pork belly on chestnut-esque mung bean pottage (stew) is stick-to-the-ribs hearty. Just be sure to save room for a fun, fried milk dessert.
Garlic Yuzu is another welcome addition to southwest Valley's ever-growing scene. Drop by and welcome Chef Hong to the neighborhood.
GARLIC YUZU 7250 S. Durango Drive #120, 702-268-7312. Tuesday-Sunday, 5-10:30 p.m.