Restaurant Review: Yobo-A Pleasant Experience Marred by Some Missteps

by Jac Bergenson

I neither flew to Japan, nor walked the Great Wall.  I did not stop in Seoul or black out in Bangkok.  Truthfully, I cannot recall the last time I have left the tri-state area, but after Monday night, it is easy to feel like I just came back from Asia.

Between the busts of Confucius and the laughing Buddha, the paper lanterns and bamboo shoots, Yobo is a delightful amalgamation of Pan-Asian culture.  With similarities to a John Woo movie, it’s hard to imagine a night at Yobo as standard fare.  But this review is not merely about the atmosphere.  I came to eat—and eat I did!

To start, I ordered a cocktail and a dim sum plate.  My cocktail, a peach flavored take on the Pina Colada, was sweet and refreshing, and was served ice cold.  I do believe it was a little light on the alcohol—not a concern for those not of age, but something to consider since drinks can be expensive. However, the subtle peach flavor alone made it worth the price.

Our dim sum plate, called “Cho Chi Bau,” consisted of two large, steamed roast pork buns.  Since they were steamed and not baked, the buns were doughy and soft, and almost seemed more appropriate for a sweet application rather than savory.  The dish burst with flavor and I would have been satisfied to eat it as a dessert rather than a starter.  It was nonetheless an interesting take on pork and I would definitely order it the next time I came back.

Satisfied with our dim sum plate, my date and I moved on to our entrees.  She ordered the “Yobo Special”, which consisted of Hibachi grilled chicken, beef and shrimp kushiyaki (skewers), and vegetables.  Her chicken was well cooked, tender and juicy, and the cooks did not skimp on the teriyaki sauce.  The shrimp were spicy and flavorful, but appeared to be medium sized shrimp rather than jumbo or large.  Given the amount of food on the plate, the size of the shrimp was a non-issue.  The beef, however, was an issue.  Tough and chewy, it lacked marinating and was wholly unpleasant.

My plate, the “Ginza Special”, named for the Ginza fashion district of Tokyo, consisted of Hibachi grilled steak, which I ordered medium rare, tempura vegetables, and Katsu chicken (breaded cutlets).  Like the beef on the Yobo Special, the steak was overcooked—well done, in fact.  Unseasoned and unpalatable, I couldn’t bring myself to eat three bites of it.  The Katsu chicken, on the other hand, was cooked brilliantly, with a teriyaki-style sauce bursting with sweet and salty flavor.  Likewise, the tempura vegetables were light and tender, and were my favorite part of the dish.  For a meat-eater like myself, to find myself drawn to the vegetables speaks of their quality.

(Photo by Jac Bergenson)

Unfortunately, the fine dining ended with the chicken and vegetables.  Our server presented us with a dessert tray, not short on prepackaged desserts.  What he showed us looked ancient and unappealing.  A good dusting was in order.  Nonetheless, I ordered a crème de menthe parfait.  My date claimed it  “tasted like mouthwash,” and I’m not inclined to argue.  Additionally, the whipped cream on top was extremely overworked and had a texture not unlike Land-o-Lakes whipped butter.

Throughout the meal, the service we received was generally pleasant.  The hostess and server greeted us with a smile, and never made us feel rushed or unwelcome.  The server clearly needed another round of Rosetta Stone, however, and the whole experience felt just a bit awkward.

The food was hit or miss, but the hits were flavorful enough that I would definitely give Yobo another go.  I wouldn’t go so far to say that Yobo is above average or the class of Newburgh’s Asian fare, but there were enough highlights that I would go again.

 

Summary

First course and cocktails

  • Cho Chi Bau
  • Dim Sum plate originating in Guangdong, China
  • Surprisingly sweet and tender
  • Soft texture and sweetness of roast pork means that it would fare surprisingly well as an unconventional dessert if so desired

Entree

  • Yobo Special: Hibatchi Chicken, with beef & shrimp kushiyaki
  • Chicken was tender and juicy, while the beef was a little tough.  The shrimp were spicy and flavorful, but small.  The vegetables provided amounted to take-out Chinese quality.
  • Ginza Special:  Hibatchi Steak, tempura vegetables, and Katsu Chicken
  • The steak came well done and tough, despite asking for it medium. Can tell that it was not marinated as it was not very palatable.
  • Katsu chicken, a Japanese style breaded chicken cutlet with a sweet sauce resembling sesame sauce.
  • Tempura vegetables were the highlight.  Light and tender, and incredibly flavorful for mere vegetables.
  • Named after fashionable Ginza district of Tokyo, clearly a Japanese style dish.

Dessert

  • Crème de menthe parfait
  • Tasted like mouthwash
  • Whipped cream was overwhipped, nearly butter
  • Dessert presented on tray, but looked unappealing and not fresh.

Service

  • Server was awkward and English was clearly his second (or third) language
  • Not confident, however he was polite and welcoming
  • Though it was slow, we never had to worry about finding out server.  He was always available.
  • Was not entirely familiar with the desserts:  struggled to find the names of them

Recommendation

  • Roast pork buns were extremely flavorful and a delightful start to the meal
  • Drinks were sweet and fit for the end of summer
  • Avoid the beef, as the steak was tough and overcooked
  • Don’t stay for dessert, but make your way to another destination for it

Review:  3/5 stars
Worth making the trip, but not award winning.