Japanese cuisine and I have a lot in common. They have a lot of seafood, I eat a lot of seafood... List goes on...
In general, Japanese food has had a mixed response in Karachi. There are fans who make (or want to make) regular trips to high-end restaurants offering Japanese cuisine on the menu. But then there are popular Japanese restaurants that have shut down for good, probably because Japanese cuisine wasn't popular enough. You will always be remembered, Kamameshi... I'm not crying, you are!
So when Yaki opened up, offering three different Asian cuisines and boasting live teppanyaki (Japanese grill station), I had to get myself there and find out if it would satisfy my persistent craving for Japanese cuisine.
Yaki is the brain child of three partners who wanted to bring the entertainment of Asian food to Karachi minus the exorbitant prices. As if it hadn't already won me over!
Where to go
Yaki is situated on the burgeoning food street Khayaban-e-Sehr, adjacent to Vintage cafe. It's very easy to spot, with a wall covered in bamboo sticks with the logo in the centre.
When to go
Yaki is open for lunch from 12:30pm - 3:30Pm and for dinner from 7:30pm - 12:00am.
What to order
I have to admit, the excitement had us go a little crazy with the menu. We consulted with part-owner Danyaal Yaseen and ordered a number of appetizers and seated ourselves for the live teppanyaki cooking.
The appetisers at Yaki are a must-try. We decided to stay away from my Japanese cuisine needs and try the Chinese and Thai starters too. We tried their prawn tempura, which has an amazing thin and crispy coating of batter. The prawns felt soft and buttery. It is exactly how tempura should taste. The dip it came with added to the flavour without being overpowering
The wasabi prawns were a little low on wasabi but I'm guessing they have to play it safe for their customers here. If we ask them upon ordering to up the wasabi, they will do so.
The two hidden gems that Yaki has are the prawn cakes and the tango lemon chicken.
The prawn cakes were soft yet crunchy on the outside and had the perfect balance of sweet and savoury. I was nervous they would be too sweet but surprisingly they were amazing and i can see myself going back to Yaki for those prawn cakes.
The tango lemon chicken was a pleasant surprise. Crispy and covered in a sweet and sour sauce that had strong hints of tropical flavours, this one was an unexpected win and we were grateful to Danyaal for encouraging us to try it.
The teppanyaki table was a fun experience. Our chef was Arsalan and he was very sweet and tried his best to make the live cooking experience fun for us.
According to Danyaal, all the chefs are Pakistani (a fact he is very proud of) and have been trained abroad. We were impressed by this move and I think it's one to appreciate.
Arsalan made sure to put on a show for us. From the start, there was a fire show which had us excited. He presented the rice in the shape of a heart and then flipped our bowls in the air.
We tried the teppanyaki in beef, prawn, chicken and fish along with vegetables and chose garlic rice as our side. The flavours of the meats was obviously similar so I'd suggest the novice to try one meat first so as to not get bored of the flavour. I loved the beef and prawn the most because the beef was not chewy but well cooked and the prawns went great with the seasoning (although I did use some soy sauce). The teppanyaki mix went great with the vegetables and we with our carnivorous preferences actually could not resist them. A huge shout out to the teppanyaki garlic rice though! The texture and flavour were almost similar to the rice I had in Japan! That proved Yaki's research to me.
We were stuffed but we weren't going to leave Yaki without trying out their sushi, which has already been raved about on social media. Upon Danyaal's recommendation we went for the assorted sushi platter which consisted of nigiri sushi, crunchy california rolls and tuna rolls. The fish in the sushi was fresh, very fresh. However I felt the rice could have been seasoned better. Sushi is supposed to have subtle flavours but here there was a lacking in the rice. However, with Yaki still being in its testing state, I am confident it will pick up, especially considering how many people love Yaki's sushi already.
Damage on the pocket
With Yaki offering so many different things, the prices also vary. However, for offering similar dishes to those available at high-end restaurants, they are comparably cheaper.
The sushi is obviously on the expensive side ranging from Rs750 to Rs3,000. Starters range from Rs350 to Rs600. The teppanyaki you can order ala carte or go for the teppenyaki buffet that ranges from Rs1750 to Rs2250 which has you enjoying the live cooking and having all you can eat and drink. Yaki also has a lunch deal that has two soups or one starter, a rice or noodle dish, two main courses and two drinks for Rs1850. So there's a price range for whatever mood you're in.
While Yaki is still working on improving itself, with Danyaal revealing that there's much more to come, I see myself going back there... and soon!