Thursday, August 7, 2008

All-You-Can-Eat Japanese - Yang's Kitchen

I am helplessly addicted to all-you-can-eat (AYCE) Japanese cuisine.

It's a lovely phenomenon that has cropped up in Canada (and probably in other "New Worlds" where Chinese people have settled) in the past couple years. The beauty of AYCE Japanese is that it can perfectly satisfy all your cravings for any kind of Japanese food you may want to eat, at an affordable, set price (usually about $20CAD here in uptown Toronto).

But wait! Aren't I normally a huge stickler for authenticity, especially when it comes to food, and isn't AYCE Japanese obviously not authentic? Yes and yes, but since most (if not all) of these joints owned and operated by Chinese people and I am Chinese, I find that the menu items are very suited to my palate.

AYCEJ restaurants offer menus with hundreds of choices, and what I love about it is that you can order exactly how much of everything you want to eat (except maki rolls, which you have to order a whole roll at a time for each type). For example, if you were in the mood for three shrimp tempuras, four slices of salmon sashimi and two tuna handrolls, you can order exactly that. So that's just the amount of anything you want for $20, when previously at regular Japanese restaurants, you'd probably have to choose to order ONLY tempura or ONLY teriyaki or ONLY sashimi/sushi, etc. because it would be really costly to order everything.

The first AYCE Japanese restaurant I can remember going to in Toronto is Ten-Ichi, which used to focus on teppanyaki and was strictly à la carte. Soon after, as the popularity of this genre grew, these such restaurants started cropping up everywhere in Toronto like weed.

My AYCE Japanese joint of choice is Yang's Kitchen, this tucked-away hole in the wall at Hwy 7 and Kennedy, in a little plaza where there's also an RBC. I've tried a good seven or eight different AYCE Japanese places, and I keep coming back to this one for the following reason:

1.) Turnover is very quick, which means the food is really fresh and arrives promptly.
2.) The rolls are phenomenal - they don't scrimp on ingredients, but they also won't pack them down with a ton of rice to fill you up.
3.) There are a ton of choices and they vamp up their menu with new selections every so often.
4.) Even on really busy nights, the empty plates are cleared away really quickly.
5.) The food is just really good.
6.) You can almost always find a 10% off coupon in the Chinese newspapers.

I've read online that quite a few people aren't happy with the service, with one guy even going as far as calling the police - isn't that a little excessive for someone who's quibbling over a $3 mandatory gratuity fee that exists at every buffet? I've never had any problems there with the service besides the fact that they don't really have a system for taking down names when there are people waiting. But turnover there is so quick that it's almost a non-issue - and besides, I always go on weeknights because it's cheaper.

And the thing is - it's a cultural issue. Forgive me for making generalizations, but trust me when I say that I have it on very good authority to tell you that if you go to any casual Chinese-owned restaurant, you really can't expect too much from the service. We're all about efficiency. That's why the food arrives so promptly and why the turnover is so quick, which in turn ensures that the food is fresh and that they earn more money, of course. Being as efficient as possible and earning as much as you can is the name of the game. Time is money. That's also why they have a 1.5hr dining time limit but trust me, it's way more than enough.

So if you are looking to have really fresh, tasty AYCE Japanese for a decent price, I highly recommend Yang's Kitchen.

My picks:
*black dragon roll (BBQ eel and avocado slices over California roll)
*cubed steak (cooked with butter, garlic and black pepper - so good!)
*white tuna sashimi
*spicy crispy salmon or tuna rolls
*tempura shrimp
*any of the new items that are only available for dinner, like baked scallop, BBQ eel pizza and so on

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

As I live in the states, I agree - it's always maki rolls here!

Thanks for this post! It's an exciting introspective into the culinary art form that is sushi.