Monday, December 17, 2012

Restaurant Review: Asiana Grill Yoshinoya (by Kevin Wolfe)

Review of Asiana Grill Yoshinoya (Fullerton)

I have not eaten at Yoshinoya in years, as my prior experiences left me more than wanting; so I must admit that I was a little skeptical when I was offered the opportunity to review a new concept that they are rolling out called Asiana Grill. That being said, I was still curious, so I thought I would give it a shot. I attended the event with my friend Brian and I can honestly say that we were pleasantly surprised at the quality and amount of flavor in the food that was presented.
Yoshinoya introduced the concept of Asiana Grill in May of 2012, opening the first location in Fullerton, just south of Cal State Fullerton. This was soon followed in August by a second location in Los Angeles, near USC. We visited the Fullerton location.
Immediately upon entering you are treated to a vibrant atmosphere with a distinct Asian flair. The employees here are polite and the interior has a clean appearance. The core theme behind Asiana Grill is to allow you to be your own chef by presenting you with several options that allow you to create over 180 different combinations:
First you choose one of four styles for your meal:
Big Platter: Served with plump steamed white rice, 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.
Lots of Soup: Lightly sweet Shiromiso base served with grilled white rice cake and fresh vegetable medley (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and cabbage). Topped with scallions.
Super Salad: Fresh romaine spring salad mix served with grilled rice wedges and a light Sesame Miso dressing. All topped with sliced cucumbers, julienne carrots and scallions.
Great Yellow Bun: Baked fresh daily and served with Asian Cabbage Salad (Napa and green cabbage with shredded carrots, chopped parsley, vinegar and mirin) and sweet potato fries.
You then choose from a list of seven proteins: charbroiled steak, charbroiled chicken breast, grilled chicken thigh, charbroiled pork, grilled shrimp, grilled white fish, or grilled tofu. Finally, you select one of six sauces to season your protein with: teriyaki, sweet and sour, ginger snap, ponzu, gekikara, or mushroom. The ponzu sauce is described to be a tart, soy-based sauce with a distinctive blend of lemon, lime and orange juice. For those who choose the platter or salad, brown rice can be substituted on request. You can also pay a little extra to add shitake mushrooms to your entrée.
For those that are wary of making choices, Asiana Grill offers regular menu selections, including bowls and salads.
They have daily specials Monday thru Friday that come with a regular drink and students from any school in Fullerton that can show ID get a 15% discount on their check.
Speaking of drinks, a small selection of both import and domestic bottled beers is available for those that prefer adult beverages with their meal.
There are also a number of appetizers and side dishes that you can tack on to your meal such as ginger-chili edamame, gyoza, and shrimp tempura.
 The yellow buns they use for their sandwiches can also be purchased separately.
Asiana grill embraces the open kitchen design, so that you see everything that is going on and you can actually watch your meal being prepared fresh, fast, and the way you like it, just for you. Also, nearly every ingredient is prepared fresh daily, from the green tea to the baking of their yellow buns.
I ordered the Great Yellow Bun with charbroiled chicken breast and gekikara sauce. The bun was soft and tasted fresh, and was well balanced with the amount of chicken and slaw that was included. The chicken itself was tender and flavorful. As indicated on the menu, the sauce was hot and spicy. I was pleasantly surprised that it was not overpowering, as I initially expected, but had just enough kick to keep me interested without sacrificing flavor. The sweet potato fries were tasty, but lacked a sauce to dip them in. While ketchup was offered, I personally feel that it would have created a disconnect, especially with Asian themed food. I would like to have had a unique sauce that complemented both the sweetness of the potato and the Asian flavors of the entrée. Brian ordered a Big Platter, with grilled shrimp and teriyaki sauce. The plate was large and there were reasonable portions of everything. The shrimp was tender and the teriyaki sauce went well with it. We each drank some of their fresh green tea with our meal. Both were rich in flavor, while the lightly sweetened tea had just a hint of sweetness.
In addition to our meal, we were given an opportunity to sample some of their appetizers and side orders. They offered us tastes of grilled rice cakes seasoned with mirin and vinegar, grilled udon noodles, as well as a small yellow bun sandwich with charbroiled steak. Both of the sides were tasty and would serve as a nice addition to the meals that they offer.
We were also treated to a sample of their flavored water. They currently offer cucumber and lychee, both accented with lemongrass. Both flavors were very prevalent and tasted much like their name suggest.
I tried their ginger-chili edamame, which is seasoned with its own sauce blended with sesame seed and red pepper. It had a good spicy kick to it, but it did not seem so much as to be off-putting.
Their dessert selection is minimal, offering your choice of vanilla ice-cream, frozen banana, or cheesecake, each of which is dipped in chocolate. However, you can have them add “Daffy Apple Crush” topping for no extra charge. While I was not impressed with the selection of desserts, I ordered an ice-cream just to try the topping. It was a nice accent to the otherwise bland treat. The banana is a good staple, but it would be nice to see some different flavor options for the ice-cream and/or cheesecake.
Roy, a corporate research and development chef with Yoshinoya, sat down to speak with us for a moment to detail how Asiana Grill was created. He explained that Asiana Grill came about through the desire to bring a new, fresh look to more affluent markets, where they have not done as well. The concept is an answer to those who seek a more refined Asian style cuisine that is still at a reasonable price. He said that Asiana Grill encompasses a higher price point, allowing for a more extravagant offering in terms of taste. Roy mentioned that one item in the pipeline is a miso-glazed salmon, which is expected to be priced slightly higher than current selections. He also went into detail about how Yoshinoya wants to take the lessons they learn from Asiana Grill full circle and apply them to retool the classic Yoshinoya experience, without sacrificing its mission to provide good taste at an affordable price.
For those who have either not been to Yoshinoya in some time, or even if you’ve never tried Yoshinoya, Asiana Grill is definitely worth checking out. While I’m not prepared to say that the experience would be a regular stop for me, I am anxious to return to mix things up a bit and try some of the other style dishes. So join the “flavorlution” and try Asiana Grill Yoshinoya today!

Visit them online at
450 N State College Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92831
(714) 871-8442
10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (Mon – Sun)

Los Angeles:
3021 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 749-3196
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 a.m. (Sun – Thurs)
10:30 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. (Fri & Sat)
Free Wi-Fi is offered at this location; just ask your cashier for the password

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