*** (3 stars)This is a beautiful restaurant in the former Grace space. It’s difficult to avoid comparisons with Grace, since the owner is the same (but not the chef or GM) and the room is mostly unchanged. It’s soft and welcoming.
I was never a huge Grace fan, so I really wanted to like Yugen. The first impression was good, in that the service was cordial and professional, but not the affected robotic dance that Grace was.
The problem is the food. This is one of those restaurants that prepare a ten-course tasting menu of astonishingly beautifully plated dished, but where the plethora of ingredients rarely adds up to more than the individual components. Highlights were the mussel dish and the dessert, and there was nothing that was bad, just a lot of meh.
This is a huge problem, because Yugen is at a similar price point to two and three-star Michelin restaurants like Alinea, or the amazing Oriole, which is just a few blocks away. But there is simply no comparison in the resulting product.
The wine list is good, if expensive. The wine pairing didn’t particularly match the courses, and was one of those comprised of wines sommeliers love because they are made from unusual grapes at good wholesale prices. I’d rather have half as many actual quality wines.
The cocktail list is cute. It’s currently themed to the films of Hayao Miyazaki, and was probably the highlight of the evening.
The nearly empty dining room on a Wednesday night doesn’t bode well for the future of the restaurant, and I just don’t foresee a lot of return business when there are so many high-end options at this price point.
652 W Randolph St