(13603 Madison Ave., 440-799-8343) to the growing list of contemporary, Asian-inspired eateries that have popped up recently in Lakewood. The new restaurant joins spots like Roxu Fusion and Voodoo Tuna, which use the flavors and ingredients of the Far East as inspiration when crafting their eclectic menus.
Yuzu, which opened its doors yesterday, managed to stay under the radar in terms of pre-opening buzz. That, says owner Dave Bumba, was the plan all along.
“That was kind of by design, like when you all of the sudden drop an album and everybody is surprised by it,” he says.
When Bonnie and Clyde's Bar closed in March, Bumba jumped on the opportunity. He had been working in restaurants since he was 16 years old – both front and back of the house – and he knew the Lakewood property was ideal for the concept he had in mind.
“I feel like in Lakewood there are two types of places,” he explains. “There are all these neighborhood dive bars, which I love because they are cool, cheap and casual. But the food and beverage is dated and the service can be hit or miss. And then you have the chef-driven places that have elevated service and décor, and the food and beverage is more on point with trends. But these places aren’t affordable for the average consumer to go to once a week. So I’m trying to meet somewhere in the middle.”
His concept can be distilled down to this: an approachable neighborhood bar with global comfort foods.
The menu centers around yakitori, Japanese-style skewered meats that are marinated, grilled and sauced. Proteins like chicken thighs, pork belly and sirloin join veggies in the skewer department. Priced between $3 and $5, the idea is to mix and match. All meats are purchased fresh from Blue Ribbon Meats. More entrée-style in portion and price, a selection of rice bowls feature short grain white rice topped with beef bulgogi and veggies, “Mall Food Court” chicken teriyaki, and an Indian-inspired version with chickpea, coconut, curry and sweet potato.
Affordable, bar-friendly snacks include panko-crusted fries, 5-Spice edamame, super-spicy wasabi peas and Thai fondue, a concoction of butter cheese, coconut milk and peanut butter served with apples.
But don’t expect Yuzu to stick to any script when it comes to the menu, says Bumba.
“We don’t want to be pigeonholed as strictly an Asian restaurant,” he explains. “We’ll expand to other parts of the world based on season and consumer demand. I think of it more in terms of experience, the warm, pub-style hospitality and affordability.”
The beverage program takes more than a few liberties with craft cocktails.
“They’re like classic cocktails on Adderall,” he says.
The American Psycho, a play on the Dirty Martini, blends garlic-infused vodka, olive and truffle oil, Florida Georgia Lime has a Pop Rocks-dusted rim, and Bartender Blood is an unholy mixture of Jägermeister, Fernet Branca and cold-pressed coffee.
Bumba ripped out the pool tables and dart boards to convert the second room into a dining room. All told, the bar, dining room and patio can seat approximately 100 guests.
For now, Yuzu is dinner only, serving the entire menu until 2 a.m. every day but Sunday.