When I say yakuza, what immediately springs to your mind? Probably neon, danger, ink and blood, mutilation, murder, easy money, fast living and an early grave. Perhaps not 100 % what I'm looking for when I go out for a bite, but I can't help feeling slightly disappointed when I go to restaurant Yakuza. All I find here is smiles, Western music and fashion shows on the screens, bright colors and an all too safe atmosphere. The closest thing to danger I've come there was some tank sized man giving me the death stare when he accidentally passed before my camera lens. Looking quite lethal myself, I just gave him my icy ”let's get it on, punk” stare, after which he wet his pants and apologetically backed out of the restaurant, whimpering and bowing like some sarariman caught masturbating outside a high school*.
”the words 'asian fusion' is usually enough for me to do a 180 and run”
In small print over the name Yakuza on the restaurant logo, the words ”sushi & Asian fusion” are written. Now, the words ”Asian fusion” is usually enough for me to do a 180 and run. I can't fathom the logic behind desperately trying to fix something that's not broken. Fortunately, Yakuza has opted for not fusing their Asian and Italian cuisines, instead they simply offer two different cuisines in one menu. But still, I honestly don't go to an Asian restaurant to have risotto, so in preparing for this review I've mainly stuck to their Asian food.
Just as the restaurant itself doesn't make you feel the thrill of living on the edge, neither does their food. Even though it doesn't make you want to perform self-mutilation either, restaurant food needs to be better than this. One of my favorite makirolls is sake tempura, which normally has an outer layer of crisp, delicious, deep friedtempura batter. But at Yakuza, it's a pale, dough-tasting, squishy coating. The other rolls I've tried have not been particularly bad, but sadly they have all been proof that there is better sushi to be had elsewhere in Riga.
”i suddenly heard a moaning woman”
I don't have much praise for the chicken gyoza either. I know that the word ”weird” isn't very informative to describe how something tastes, but I don't really know how else to put it in words. There is some strange ingredient (or several) which simply doesn't benefit this dish. Less weird is the udon soup, which is actually quite flavorful and was perfect on the cold and rainy Sunday I had it on. Well, not completely perfect. Why is it called udon soup, when the noodles in it are obviously not udon noodles? Also, the vegetable strips are too long for the spoon, so they kept ending up in my beard and there went my dignity. Finally, just for good measure, today I tried the tori ebi wok with egg noodles and curry & coriander sauce. It's now been about three hours since I had it and it's already difficult recalling any of its flavors.
Service is quite fast, attentive and friendly, even to the point where you think things might get interesting. During one of my visits, they played saxophone-laden music of the kind that you would normally hear in documentaries for adults**. It got almost parodic when I suddenly heard a moaning woman in the mix and the waitress went and dimmed the lights. At this point I almost expected her to stride over and drag me into some back room***...
I'm not quite sure what to write in favor of Yakuza. Yes, they have some fairly decent lunch offers, they have a restaurant at the airport, they seem to do a lot of deliveries, but... There is simply better and cheaper Japanese food to be had in Riga. Gomennasai.
* okay, that last part was a lie, but I'm feeling very masculine here in my underwear by my laptop.
** yeah, you know what I'm talking about...
*** she never did. And here I sit in my underwear.