Great Neck has recently dealt with quite a few restaurant closings: Ren Wen Ramen, Element Seafood and even Ippon, a promising Japanese ramen place with chefs who trained in Japan to perfect their craft. Despite many of these closings, however, new restaurants have quickly filled many of their spots, including Yahao Asian Cuisine, a Japanese eatery that opened just a few weeks after Ippon closed its doors for the last time. With a similar but larger menu and with comparable decor, Yahao keeps the style of Ippon alive while adding more variety and customization to the menu.
Located at 6 Bond St., Yahao offers a combination of authentic Japanese classics, American takes on Japanese favorites and even a handful of Thai dishes. The restaurant’s decor feels very similar to that of Ippon, with slight alterations. From comfortable leather chairs to red and gray walls to Japanese relics like a drum and a miniature bonsai tree, Yahao resembles an upscale eatery with traditional touches that give the restaurant a more familial and almost historic vibe. Professional, attentive service adds to the rather formal ambiance.
Pricing is about average for most Japanese-style eateries in the Great Neck area, with starters between $4 and $13, most rolls between $4 to $15 for specialty rolls and other entrées at around $13 to $15. Much of the menu resembles that of Ippon with a few changes, such as additional kitchen appetizers, customizable poké bowls and a few Thai-inspired options.
To start, try one of the soups or salads like Poh Taek or spicy shrimp soup, tuna mango salad dressed in a light vinaigrette or roast duck salad with Hoisin and sweet sesame sauces. Kitchen appetizers are fairly standard for a Japanese eatery, featuring options like beef negimaki or rolled-up beef in a teriyaki sauce with scallion, yellowtail with ponzu and vegetable gyoza, along with a Malaysian-inspired spring roll called popiah with bamboo shoots and cabbage.
Unlike many competitors, Yahao presents sushi in both a traditional sashimi and roll style as well as in a deconstructed form accompanied by vegetables and sauces. For traditional sushi options, Yahao offers a wide array of sashimi like eel, uni and smoked salmon, among others. In addition to standard rolls like spicy salmon and sweet potato tempura, various special rolls include Sake Hana with shrimp tempura, Red Devil containing spicy tuna with a bit of a crunch and steamed spicy lobster with wasabi mayo. For nontraditional options, sample Pano Pizza, which contains salmon, avocado, tobiko and rice mixed with Panko breadcrumbs; fish and chips with spicy mango sauce or lobster tacos.
Kitchen entrées are reminiscent of a typical Asian-fusion restaurant, with options like pork katsu, Mongolian beef and seafood pan-fried noodles. Keeping with the tradition of Ippon, Yahao offers six ramen bowls nearly identical to its predecessor, with options including a savory tonkatsu ramen containing cha siu pork and a soft-boiled egg, seafood miso ramen with bamboo shoots and dark garlic which gives the soup a rather pungent flavor and chicken teriyaki ramen with perfectly al dente wavy noodles. A unique addition, the selection of poké parallels the quality and availability of the ingredients at nearby Mr. Poké, featuring a similar four-step process of selecting a variety of ingredients from among 15 proteins, 9 bases, 16 toppings and 4 dressings.
On a recent visit, I tried the Thai basil chicken on the lunch special, which included a hefty portion of the main dish alongside rice, a California roll, soup, salad and seafood shumai. Despite an overload of red and green peppers, the basil chicken had a fragrant taste accented by the fresh herbs and oyster sauce. The shumai were not stellar, but definitely had a rather fresh taste to them. The high quality of the fish shows in numerous poké dishes, where the raw fish doesn’t have the slightest fishy odor, but does have a perfect balance of succulent fish, crunchy vegetables, smooth crab meat and chewy noodles.