With its extravagant platters of smoking seafood, cocktails crafted for the ‘gram, gilded ceilings and glamorous celebrity diners, Cheltenham’s Japanese restaurant YOKU became an instant social media sensation as soon as it opened its doors at No. 131 The Promenade in March 2022.
And while Gloucestershire’s socialites love an exciting new opening, a restaurant’s endurance requires more than hype and puffer fish-shaped glassware to succeed long-term – in the hopes of becoming one of those special ‘we can’t wait to come back here’ experiences – and when SoGlos visited, four months after its launch, that’s exactly what YOKU delivered.
The chef Jesse Chung was so impressive, working with meticulous precision in the open kitchen and occasionally visiting our table to share knowledgeable insight: from when the yellowtail fish was delivered to which things to definitely not add soy to!
'The Octopus Kingdom’ platter for two people made for an impressive centrepiece with added dry ice theatrics: spanning slivers of salmon, tuna and Hamachi sashimi; Hokkaido scallop; Gunkan maki; spider maki topped with fried soft shell crab and Aburi nigri – all a selection box of sensationally-fresh treats for sushi aficionados, served from a silver octopus.
For a lighter option, the picture-perfect ebi ten signature roll was another sushi favourite: combining tempura shrimp, asparagus, avocado and tobiko in the shape of a flower-topped dragon. While the wagyu tataki was a sensational – non-sushi – highlight: with sumptuous A5 wagyu flash-fried and served with lotus crisps and truffle wafu dressing. There was also a good selection of plant-based options; as well as kimchi rice bowls and selection of ramen on the menu too.
While The Lucky Onion’s venues in the past may have developed a bit of a local
reputation for slow service, on SoGlos’s Thursday evening visit the staff
were nothing short of exceptional: brilliantly welcoming, brimming with enthusiasm
and keen to share an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything on the menu.
Described as ‘Tokyo vogue’, YOKU is an unapologetically
fine dining Japanese restaurant – with a pre-warned ‘no trainers’ dress code. YOKU's décor is, as you might expect of a Jade and Julian Dunkerton-owned venue, an extravagant
sort of stunning. And with dinner for two easily costing around £200 with
drinks, it’s also somewhere most would reserve for special celebrations.
But, above the undoubted style, it was YOKU’s cuisine that provided the return-time-and-time-again substance – and was undoubtedly some of the best food we’ve eaten in Gloucestershire.
For more information, see YOKU at No. 131 or call (01242) 822939 to book a table.