Munch goes to Yokoso!
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Once a year, through the Munch-A-Wish Foundation, Munch makes holiday dreams come true. This year, One Lucky Groupie Of Munch (OLGOM), having campaigned to meet Munch, and having submitted to the usual battery of background checks just to make sure Groupie of Munch wasn't additionally a Crazy Stalker Lady of Munch (what, you never saw "Fatal Attraction?"), has won the privilege -- nay, honor -- of noshing with Munch, and finding out for herself whether the king, or possibly queen, of the run-on sentence is truly as witty and good looking in person as we claim to be in newsprint.
The answer is no. We can only imagine OLGOM's intense disappointment, but she concealed it admirably as Munch, Dear One Of Munch (DOOM) and OLGOM met at Yokoso! Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar in the Waterfront at Homestead. That exclamation point at the end of Yokoso! is not a typo, so we can only presume that they want you to really shout the name with enthusiasm. (Yokoso! I said YOKOSO!!, dammit!) But Munch is going to make an editorial decision here and drop the punctuation; forthwith we'll call the place Yokoso, in a normal tone of voice.
Anyhow, Yokoso endeavors to be the type of place where you might reluctantly plunk down $80 on a few drinks and two of those high-flying hibachi dinners, the kind where the expertly trained (we hope) hibachi grill maestros are juggling their knives and spatulas skyward, a blur of metal and butterflied shrimp.
But Munch, being restricted, as always, by the Post-Gazette's ever-tightening purse strings (this just in: the Post-Gazette has pawned off its purse strings), was here to test drive the lunch fare, and that meant sushi, sushi and more sushi.
After waiting for a while at the bar -- where the tender tried charging Munch for a Chardonnay we did not, technically, order -- we were ushered to the middle of the restaurant, between the bar in the front and the numerable hibachi grills in the back, right next to the colorful sushi counter, where you can watch the sushi chefs at work. Munch remembers reading somewhere that it takes a sushi chef 10 years to master his craft. We have no idea if it's true, but this is just the type of inane trivia that keeps you coming back to Munch's column week after week, is it not?
So, get out your scorecards. Munch started with the tempura udon ($6.95), thick noodles and a couple of fried shrimp bathing in a mild mirin broth, a hot antidote for a cold December night. Munch followed that with a two-piece spicy scallop sushi order ($5.50) and the specialty of the house, the Yokoso roll ($12.95), with deep-fried tempura shrimp, asparagus, crab and cucumber topped with a heap of spiced tuna. Tasty, hearty and, in the case of the Yokoso special, huge, bigger than Mom's pumpkin roll. The crunch of the shrimp and cucumber played nicely with the rice-and-crab assembly.
DOOM snarfed down the crab and tofu miso soup ($4.50), a Japanese staple, and the rainbow roll was pretty standard ($10.95 for a California avocado roll with four kinds of seafood), but the nigiri octopus sushi ($5.00) was garnished with, yep, a generous bounty of baby octopus, squirmy legs and all, tricked out in a sesame glaze.
"I'm not big on anything with suction cups," OLGOM said, and normally this is a sensible policy, but when in Rome, you definitely eat the suction cups. Verdict: chewy, sweet, and not as briny as you might expect.
OLGOM: The oden udon ($6.95) was basically the same as Munch's soup except with "fishcake" instead of shrimp. She also ordered the Pittsburgh roll ($10.95), an eight-piece California-style roll with cucumber and crab salad, which is just fine if you like your sushi to taste like Miracle Whip. Uh, Munch does not.
This wouldn't be a Munch column if we didn't offer some unsolicited advice to the proprietors, so here goes: Ditch the ashtrays. Nothing is quite so irritating when a refined palate such as Munch's is trying to probe the flavorful depths of a dish -- I detect essence of ginger, boiled eel and, is this just a hint of Newport Light? I believe it is!
Forgive Munch for being a pinko dues-paying member of the Tobacco Gestapo.
The second round of kvetching is dedicated to the service, which was attentive but seemed a bit forceful, given that we were one of maybe a dozen parties in the place and there was no reason to rush us. We were given our check before anyone asked if we wanted dessert.
You're now thinking -- Hey, I'd like to go out to eat with Munch someday. How do I track you down? Here's how: Get yourself one of those big Kleig lights, put a paper bag in front of it, and project the Munch Signal into the night heavens. Munch always responds, unless we're right in the middle of dinner.
Seriously, try it. If the cops show up, you never talked to us.
First Published December 13, 2007 12:00 am