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1 Danforth Street

Yosaku Reviewed: Fall, 2003

Quick, help! Someone's pulling a bait & switch at one of my favorite, ethnic restaurants. Balanced portions are being leveraged for annoying, so-called "extra values"- live saxophone and piano lounge music in a 20 x 25 dining space anyone? The authentic, specialty flavor Yosaku began with seems to now be limited only to its sushi and sashimi. Regarding the rest of the menu, it has been stricken with a sudden and acute case of shrinkage.

Judging by my last visit, some of the only things warranting a visit to Yosaku currently are its service, its pre-lounge hour atmosphere, and its seafood. What this seaside Japanese restaurant suffers most from is a new deficit of quality in its main menu courses. One of the menu items, Chanko Nabe, actually boasts "sumo-sized portions". Such a description had my husband and I believing both of us could split it and still be fed comfortably. You can imagine our disappointment when we discovered the only thing Yosaku delivered "big" on was filler. For a $19.00 menu item to be almost entirely comprised of rice and noodle was irksome to say the least.

My guess about the culprit of Yosaku's decline is a new dining-room manager. Perhaps even one in a long line of new dining-room managers, all well meaning but overly focused on restructuring things to reflect westernized profit ideals. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for restaurant profitability. But in such cases where meal quality has suffered, and customer bases are being alienated, there can be nothing more disastrous to an establishment's success than a surplus of incongruent changes. In order for Yosaku to regain its lost shine, it should dump the hardcore profit-to-portion template, the lounge kitsch, and stick to what it does best…fresh and authentic Japanese fare.

wheelchair accessible
vegetarian selections
vegan selections
most credit cards accepted
For all of you out there who love really good miso soup, and sushi and sashimi so fresh you swear it might swim away from you, I encourage you to visit Yosaku. Ask any of their wonderful and unpretentious wait staff for recommendations, just remember not to stray too far from the seafood. This shouldn't be too difficult as there is a full selection of shellfish, fish, and roe, both raw and cooked. Yosaku also offers vegetable sushi, and some of their pickled selections are superior. For kids, the bento boxes are priced right, and offer a perfect assortment of foods including a couple different kinds of teriyaki, a side salad, tempura, miso soup, and dessert. If you prefer your meal music-free, sit at either a table or sushi bar in Yosaku's cafe (complete with TV sports programming), or in warmer seasons, the patio. Both are clean, pleasant, and offer equally good service to the dining room. Who knows? If enough of us refuse to give up on what makes Yosaku great, it may realize the only changes it needs to make are ones that turn it back into what it started as...an authentic Japanese restaurant. back to the top

      I.W.M. Rieger is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Maine



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