Monday, March 4, 2013

Sound Bites 16.0: Asiana Grill Yoshinoya @ LA

Growing up, my mom would take us to Yoshinoya for beef or chicken bowls.  I hadn't been there in years (Jennio is a big fan), so I was very curious when we were invited to check out the menu at their new spinoff, Asiana Grill Yoshinoya, by USC.  

I was surprised by the bright, cheery colors and the inviting atmosphere.  It definitely felt more like a sit-down restaurant compared to Yoshinoya's fast food seating.  With free wifi (only at the USC location), I could definitely picture students coming in to study or hang out with friends.

Boasting 180 different combinations of cooking style, protein, and sauce, Asiana Grill is kind of like the Chipotle of Yoshinoya.  If you're like us and have trouble deciding amongst all the choices, you can also have the beloved Original Beef Bowl (you can have it with mushrooms too) or the Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Bowl (which I'm eager to try next time since I love pineapple!).  Here's what Jennio and I had: 

Cucumber Lemongrass
  • Apple Blossom Green Tea - served hot.  Smelled lovely
  • Lychee Lemongrass Flavored Water - nice light flavor.  Wasn't overly sweet
  • Cucumber Lemongrass Flavored Water - really good.  Tasted like a lemonade with cucumber.  Roxanna Navarro, marketing assistant for Yoshinoya America Inc., said this was a favorite for most people. I can see myself drinking this on a hot day. 
  • Chicken Wings - crispy and addictive even without the spicy Gekikara dipping sauce.  Like the other appetizers, this would go great with beer.  Unfortunately, alcoholic beverages are only offered at the Fullerton location
  • Great Yellow Bun with Charbroiled Chicken Breast - baked fresh daily and served with Asian Cabbage Salad (Napa and green cabbage with shredded carrots, chopped parsley, vinegar and mirin). 
    We had the slider version of this, so we could get a taste of their famous Yellow Bun, which reminded me of a less sweet Hawaiian Bread.  I was surprised by how juicy the chicken breast was.  I hope they add the slider form to their menu because this would be so good with Chicken Wings and beer. 
  • Chicken Wings / Great Yellow Bun / Lots of Soup / Big Platter
  • Lots of Soup with Grilled Chicken Thigh and Ponzu Sauce - lightly sweet Shiromiso base served with grilled white rice cake and fresh vegetable medley (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and cabbage). Topped with scallions. 
    This was pretty much a huge bowl of miso soup with crispy rice.  Even though Lots of Soup seems peculiar to some people, it's actually one of the most popular dishes on the menu.  It was comforting and good on a cold rainy day.  I wish the soup was piping hot because it cooled down pretty quickly, but then again, we were busy taking tons of pictures...
  • Big Platter with Udon, Grilled Shrimp, Ponzu sauce - served with plump steamed white rice (when we were there, they offered Jennio choice of rice or udon.  Not sure if they're still doing this), fresh grilled vegetable medley (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and cabbage) and romaine spring salad mix with sliced cucumbers, julienne carrots, scallions and a light Sesame Miso dressing. All topped with Daikon sprouts, sesame seeds and a garnish of red ginger. 
    I was jealous as soon as I had one of Jennio's shrimp.  They tasted great and not in the least bit overcooked.  The grilled udon noodles had a nice salty grill flavor.  Tasted like it sounded, heh.  Jennio said the vegetables tasted like they do at Yoshinoya, which I don't mind.  I actually like Yoshinoya's brightly colored veggies.   
  • Mini Cheesecake with Daffy Apple Crush Topping - prepared daily, dipped in rich melted chocolate. Add Daffy Apple Crush topping to your dessert at no additional charge. 
    Smaller than it appears on the menu picture, which is good because it was just enough sweetness to the end the meal without feeling too full.
When he's not checking in at the 2 locations, Roy Alamillo, corporate chef for Asiana Grill, is testing new recipes.  With his infectious enthusiasm, he discussed some of the dishes he hopes to roll out later this year, such as miso-glazed salmon, sliders, and the substitution of ramen for rice in Lots of Soup. 

More Reviews:
Daily Titan
Sasaki Time