The Starving Student

Move over Mootone, there’s a new (and more exciting) sushi spot in town. Yama Japanese Restaurant opened a month ago and has already caused a buzz on campus. With a large, pleasant room complete with an open sushi bar where you can watch the chefs dice your fish, a prime location in the old Pasta Villagio spot (with the Blue Cow on your right, walk straight for 300 yards), and most importantly, good food, Yama is huge undertaking for Andover. Yama’s large menu has something for everyone. For the diner who plays it safe, standard favorites like chicken teriyaki, California rolls and tempura. For the adventurer, creative rolls like the Patriots Maki (Yeah Pats!) – snow crabmeat, avocado, and asparagus with blue marlin and tobiko on top. For the health conscious, a great selection of vegetables that makes undercooked Commons broccoli even more unappetizing. Armed with ravenous appetites and a mission (that is, to write the inaugural Living Arts’ section’s inaugural restaurant review) our group proceeded to order a veritable mountain of food. (For those of you who are not among the select 36 students who take Japanese, that’s a pun-Yama translates to “mountain” in English). Before the food arrived our server presented us with moist hot towels (nice) and a dish of carrots and celery with 1000 Island dressing (a little strange). I was excited to see Calpico Water on the beverage list-a sweet, milky, un-carbonated Japanese soft drink that I guzzled perpetually when my family visited Tokyo. We were surprised and delighted by the large size of the appetizers; a few, with a bowl of rice, could make a meal in itself. I dreamed delicious dreams last night about the Nasu Dengaku ($5.95)-melt-in-your-mouth grilled eggplant smothered with a caramelized soybean sauce. Also delectable was the Beef Negimaki ($6.95)-rolls of juicy broiled beef with scallions in the middle that produce explosions of flavor inside your mouth. My all-time favorite was the Hamachi-Kama ($8.95). This is the dish to order if you like fish-broiled yellowtail cheek basted with special teriyaki sauce… it would be double the price in the city. The rolls we ordered proved a big hit. The Salmon Skin Roll ($5)-cooked salmon with cucumber, topped in teriyaki sauce that was zigzagged artfully across the plate-will become a favorite; while the unusual Celtics Maki ($6.95)-tuna, asparagus, and tempura flakes, with a layer of sushi rice topped with salmon and surrounded by a light green soybean was a lesson in beautiful color coordination and tasted great. The entrees we ordered came with miso soup, Japanese salad, and rice. While the miso resonated with a heartwarming smoky depth, the salad, with colorless lettuce, sparse carrot strands, and a dead-of-winter tomato wedge left much to be desired. One of my dining partners commented on the dressing, “this reminds me of lemon-scented Pine Sol.” Another who lived in Japan for four years added, “if you blindfolded me and fed me this, I would have no idea what I was eating or that I was in a Japanese restaurant.” The coating on the Shrimp Tempura ($13.95) was crisp and light, although the sauce was a bit flavorless; while the Ginger Pork ($14.95) was definitely a miss, not something I’d order again. The Udon Noodle Soup ($10.95) was large enough for four of us to share, and as my nickname as a baby was “Noodles,” I contentedly slurped away. Undoubtedly the entrée of the night was the Beef Teriyaki ($16.95), a large plate of sizzling sirloin that came out perfectly tender; considering it came with soba noodles, grilled veggies, rice, and the earlier soup and salad, it was a great bang for the buck. Indeed, Yama is good value for the amount of food you receive. Compared to Mootone, the appetizers cost about the same, while the entrees run a few dollars more; however Mootone entrees only include rice. As of now Yama only does take out, but rumors are that it plans to deliver in the future. The service was quick, pleasant, and accommodating, the food delicious and good value, and they even gave us free chopsticks (this feature may be for a limited time only) with our bill. Anyone who knows me knows that I have high standards for what constitutes good food. I’d climb a mountain to try a new restaurant. But with Yama, I didn’t have to- the “mountain” was right downtown. 63 Park Street 978-749-9778