Yonaka, which bills itself as a modern Japanese restaurant, opened quietly early in 2013 at the busy, restaurant-stacked corner of Decatur and Flamingo boulevards. Who would have thought this unassuming yet strikingly designed restaurant would end up being one of the most exciting dining arrivals of the year?
Sadly, it took us this long to discover one of the most amazing components at Yonaka—happy hour. Every day, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and again from 11 p.m. until closing at 2 a.m., Yonaka offers an array of small plates and sushi priced between $3 and $7, and sake, beer and wine options priced between $3 and $10. An 8-ounce carafe of hot or cold sake—totally shareable for two—is just three bucks, which feels like theft. A 12-ounce Asahi draft is the same price.
Sift through the tasty happy hour bites and your guilt level will continue to rise. Of course, there are edamame ($3), sliders ($7) and wings ($7), but the sliders are made with beef tongue, spinach and pine nut puree and mounted on rice buns, and the wings are grilled and skewered kushiyaki-style. The veggie dishes are just as flavorful as the fish and meat options, including beet fries ($5) and especially crispy Brussels sprouts ($5). I’m not sure how Brussels sprouts became such a trendy ingredient, but they’re popping up on all kinds of menus these days. Nobody makes them taste as good as they do at Yonaka, where they’re charred into a new world of texture with lemon, chili, mint and puffed rice, yet the vegetables somehow retain hints of their mild funkiness.
Some of the restaurant’s signature creative, raw fish-based cold plates make the cut for the happy hour menu. My favorites are the crudo ($7), seabass with tomato, candied quinoa and ikura in lemon-herb oil, and the simpler sake orenji ($7), salmon and orange wedges with Thai chili, yuzu and tobiko. For those craving more traditional sushi, there’s avocado nigiri for a buck, a crunchy, spicy tuna hand roll ($5) and bluefin tuna with scallions ($7).
Need hot stuff? Besides the sliders and wings, you might want to try the chukka buns ($7), oak-grilled pork belly in steamed bread with a salad of apple, cilantro, jalapeño, shallots, lime and kimchee puree. Yonaka adjusted its karaage ($5) since my last visit, now serving these fried chicken bites plus jalapeño, mint and onion doused in a sweet chili sauce. I liked it better without the sauce, but it’s still delicious enough to order a second plate, and really, that’s what happy hour is all about. Kanpai, y’all.
Yonaka 4983 W. Flamingo Road, 685-8358. Happy hour: Daily, 5-6:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.-2 a.m.