We Love Food: Yaku

Nestled along Clarendon Boulevard in the Court House area, Yaku looks to be the perfect neighborhood hot spot. Two levels of glass and glowing lights, it always looks warm and inviting from the street. I live in Arlington, and have walked past Yaku almost daily since it’s conception as just an empty office space below my dream real-estate local, The Odyssey condominiums.

When it finally looked as if something was actually going to go in the space (that had stood empty since before I moved here in fall 2007), I got pretty excited. On my walk home, I ran up to check the posted licences to see what it would be. It’s the perfect location to be our new favorite go-to spot. Yaku, the signs said. Hmm… I said. That’s an odd name. A little googling, and I find that Yaku will be another restaurant from Latin Concepts, the same people who brought us places like Chi-Cha Lounge, Mate, Ceviche, and Guarapo (which is only around the corner from Yaku).

According to the Web site, “YAKU, is a “Chifa” restaurant lounge brought to you by Fraga-Rosenfeld.  Chifa is the fusion of Chinese and Peruvian cuisine developed by Chinese immigrants to Peru in the late 19th and early 20th centuries… The name YAKU means “water” in Quechua (Incan Language) and is intended to capture Asian-influenced Andean culinary styles unique to the region.” Yaku is also, says our friend wikipedia, a town located on Yaku Island, Japan. So let’s just go with Asian-Peruvian fusion, and call it interesting…

yaku interior

When I first noticed that Yaku seemed like they were about to open, I contacted them to see if I could come in and take pictures, write about the space and sample some food. I was hoping to get in and snap some shots before they opened. They said they weren’t taking media (ooh, I’m media!) yet, and then offered me something even better, a $50 food credit so we could try more of the menu. I mention the food credit for the sake of full disclosure, and accepted it because it allowed us to try out more dishes and give the menu a more extensive tasting than we would have been able to on our own.

golden shrimp balls

We basically gorged ourselves on Dim Sum. My roommate, Caroline, has both studied and lived in China and has a great palate. We ordered the recommended Egg Rolls (more like greasy spring rolls, really). And it was buy-one get-one free happy hour (between 5 and 7 p.m., I think) so we ordered two gyoza plates (pork and shrimp/crab) which probably could have used a bit of veggies inside along with the meat. I asked the manager, and he said it’s only meat. They were very crispy on the outside and hot yet chewy on the inside. We were also dying for some chopsticks, they give us an assortment of sauces in a cute little dish, but no chopsticks to help us dip. We are told that they’re on their way though, they’ve special ordered some nice heavier reusable black ones to match the interior. My favorite of all the dim sum though, were the golden shrimp balls (which lends itself nicely to a ‘thats what she said‘ joke). Lightly breaded on the outside, with a big shrimp on the inside, and paired with a nice onion and cucumber salad and soy sauce, they were the perfect appetizer to start off with.

caroline's entree

Our main course, after a little confusion of what dish Caroline was supposed to get, was fine. She was first brought the Beef Sauteed with Vegetables, which they promptly took away when they realized their mistake. The waiter made a joke about it later asking how her brief visit was with her first dish. Caroline finally had the Seco De Carne, an entirely latin dish of stewed beef in cilantro sauce. Not really appetizing to look at (too much green), she liked it all the same. It’s basically a deconstructed Shepard’s pie, but Peruvian-style. I had the Arroz Chaufa, Peruvian-flavored fried rice. Not as greasy as normal Asian fried rice, nonetheless, it was just your basic fried rice. Except with red peppers and green peppers, which is interesting, and now when I go to make fried rice, I’ll add in myself. It wasn’t anything to write home about, but fine.

lava cake
(Please excuse the fuzzy picture, it’s all I’ve got!)

Dessert is where Yaku really shined, and where I’ll make my recommendation. I think it’s the PERFECT neighborhood spot for drinks and dessert. We both had drinks, I had a super tasty sangria made with tequila and Caroline had the house wine. The desserts were very reasonably priced at $6 each, so it’s the perfect dessert and drinks date spot, or girl’s night out spot. The drinks were reasonably priced as well, and the happy hour specials make it worth it. Gorgeous interior and delicious desserts, plus I was told during the summer they’re going to fill their patio with tables, which will be perfect. I got the molten lava cake and Caroline got a trio of ice creams. The lava cake was excellent, perfectly warm and gooey center. The ice creams were unique too, the dolce de leche was addictive.

According to Jessica, the PR guru, they’re beginning a Tuesday night 3 course for $25 special, perfect for this craptastic economy. A great (and more importantly cheap) way to try Yaku.

So if not for the golden shrimp balls, come for the lovely dessert and drinks. You’ll find me there on some winter nights sipping wine, and you’ll definitely find me there over the summer enjoying the patio and some ice cream.

YAKU is located on the corner of Clarendon Blvd. & Scott St.
2001 N. 15th St., Arlington,VA 22201• Tel: 703.248.0844

yaku outside

Photos courtesy of flickr user Needlessspaces.

Yaku is located at 1900 North Clarendon Blvd. in Arlington, Va. Nearest Metro stop: Court House Station (Orange line). For more information, call (703) 248-0844‎.

Katie moved to DC in 2007, and has since embarked upon a love affair with the city. She’s an education reform advocate and communications professional during the day; at night and on the weekends, she’s an owner here at We Love DC. Katie has high goals to eat herself through the entire city, with only her running shoes to save her from herself. For up-to-the-minute news and reviews (among other musings), follow her on Twitter!

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