Yanagi is the Japanese word for willow tree. It's also the word for the long slender-bladed knife used in the preparation of sushi and sashimi.
Yanagi Kitchen is the sushi-to-go concept opened earlier this month in Manhattan Beach. The original Yanagi Japanese Bistro is a full service restaurant that has been operating in Redondo for nearly 11 years. Although owner Brian Shim has no current plans to close that location, when the property recently listed for sale, he started thinking about the future of Yanagi.
Shim grew up in Palos Verdes, and later trained as a sushi chef, working in several restaurants all over Southern California, Las Vegas and Arizona before returning to the South Bay to open his own place. Now he focuses on operations and creates the menu for his team.
With the increasing popularity of delivery services such as Doordash, Postmates, Ubereats and Grubhub, Shim had noticed a growing portion of his business was takeaway and online orders. He began looking for a space for a satellite Yanagi that would cater exclusively to takeaway, but with restaurant quality fresh product.
If the most common complaint about sushi is the expense, there's little a proprietor can do about the cost of good fish, so the alternative is to remove your overhead. The Yanagi Kitchen has no wait staff and no table service; just veteran sushi chef Joseph Hong and a seasoned line cook preparing your favorite raw and cooked Japanese food fresh to order.
The new restaurant is small and spare with just enough seating for those waiting for their order. Shim chose the location in a Sepulveda strip-mall across the street from Manhattan Village for its limited square footage—lower rent helps keep the price point down.
"Prices here are actually lower than our Redondo restaurant because our overhead is lower," said Shim.
The location's previous tenant was the Brazilian Brazuca, but before that it housed a number of sushi joints, including Kai sushi. Shim likes that the place has a legacy of sushi, but more importantly, that it has plenty of parking for customer pick-up and delivery service vehicles.
Yanagi offers a full menu, from sushi, sashimi and rolls, to tempura, teriyaki and noodles.
I tried the special Yanagi bowl, which is a more interesting take on the now ubiquitous tuna poke bowl. Starting with your choice of white or brown rice in a traditional Donburi style, the signature bowl has several types of fish: salmon, yellowtail, tuna, scallop, and albacore tossed with cilantro and scallions. Topped with some pretty masago roe, crunchy seaweed salad, crispy fried onion chips for texture, and a sprinkling of savory sesame furikake. It's a nice meal and a nice deal.
Yanagi Kitchen 3001 N Sepulveda Blvd, Manhattan Beach open Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. www.yanagikitchen.com
Eileen Shields is a South Bay food writer: contact at firstname.lastname@example.org