When George Ruan and Jack Wei, both veterans of the ultra-high-end Masa in New York, opened their restaurant Yuba in the East Village last week, they were looking to fill a gap in the neighborhood.
New York City’s East Village has a lot of Japanese food, but most of it is ramen, inexpensive sushi or izakaya — the Japanese version of bar grub.
“We felt that there were no mid- to high-end Japanese places in the area,” Ruan said. “There was no [Japanese] place with white truffles or caviar.”
Ruan knows about using luxury ingredients. He had spent nearly five years working up the ranks in the kitchen at Masa, one of the most expensive restaurants in the United States.
Masa only serves omakase meals, in which the chef prepares whatever he thinks is best on any given day.
When Ruan left in March, the restaurant was charging $400 per person, before drinks, for the most pristine fish, the most obscure vegetables, the finest tofu skin.
“I figured it was time to try something myself,” Ruan said. So he teamed up with Wei, who had worked at the more casual but still pricey Bar Masa, and opened Yuba.
The restaurant shares its name with the skin that forms on the outside of tofu, which is considered a prized delicacy.
Ruan and Wei have their yuba flown in from Japan, and they use it in items such as miso grilled yuba, uni with yuba and yuba-and-pork dumplings.
Also on the menu is seasonal tempura, steamed buns stuffed with duck and foie gras, steamed sweet rice with sea urchin and white truffle and a full sushi bar.
Hot appetizer prices range from $5 for edamame to $19 for wagyu carpaccio with sesame soy, while main courses run from $13 for uni with yuba to $35 for lobster rice with white truffle.
A sampler of Yuba's menu:
Steamed pork soup dumpling $8
Grilled maitake mushroom with Truffle sauce $11
Fried baby shishito with smoked salt $7
Sweet corn and shishito tempura $8
Duck with foie gras in a steamed bun $17
Steamed sweet rice with lobster $20
With white truffle $35
Dashi poached lobster with sake, soy, ginger and scallion $20
Spicy cod roe pasta $16
Miso braised black cod with spinach $18
Snapper carpaccio with micro greens and white truffles $22
Kumomoto oyster with transmontanous caviar $30
Chutoro tartare with transmontanous caviar and toast $23
Uni with yuba in tosazu sauce $13
Yuba is expected to generate a per-person check average between $40 and $50.
The restaurant is still waiting for its liquor license, but cocktails created by Retsu Naoki that Ruan and Wei plan to offer include the Quiet Light, with soju, yuzu juice, crushed ice, soda and blue Curaçao; and the Moment’s Notice, with junmai sake, peach liqueur and plum wine garnished with a Japanese mountain peach.
Yuba has 22 seats in the dining room, plus seven at the sushi bar and another seven at the cocktail bar.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].