Despite its Japanese name, Waltham's four-year-old Sushi Yasu serves fiercely aromatic stews and stir-fries that showcase the joys of Korean cuisine: trenchant flavors of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, dark sesame oil, and fermented bean paste. Many dishes are streaked carmine by the abundant use of capsicum peppers, either in the form of gochujang (fermented-chili hot sauce) or kimchi, the essential chili-laden Korean condiment/side dish/cooking staple of fermented, pickled napa cabbage. A prime example is kimchi jayook bokum ($15.95), a five-alarm stir-fry of pork loin, onion, kimchi, and slices of firm tofu. The very pleasant servers here may try to talk you out of the hotter dishes; if you have any kind of chili tolerance, don't let them.
Entrûes come with miso soup, excellent steamed short-grain rice, and a half-dozen banchan: small cold side dishes (typically including kimchi, sesame-marinated bean sprouts, spinach salad, seaweed salad, sliced fish cake, and pickled daikon); these add up to an ample dinner. Yook gae jang ($13.95) is an enormous bowl of thinly shredded beef brisket, mung-bean sprouts, cellophane noodles, and scallions in a clear broth with plenty of chili fire. Duk man du ($13.95) is another substantial beef-broth soup that features small vegetable-filled dumplings, thin slices of beef, scallions, and chewy rice-cake slices. Kimchi jigae ($12.95), arriving boiling in a hot stone bowl, boasts fierce kimchi, tofu cubes, scallions, onions, and shredded pork; I can think of few dishes more heartwarming on freezing nights. Lunch bento boxes ($8.95–$9.95) are a good deal, featuring: miso soup, iceberg-lettuce salad, rice, and California rolls, plus protein options like boolgogi (marinated thin-sliced ribeye), fine spicy pork, and teriyaki salmon.
Given its name and how many patrons do feast on Japanese offerings, I must note that Sushi Yasu has few sashimi options ($9.95), but a decent range of nigiri ($3.95–$6.50), maki ($3.95–$5.95), and temaki ($4.95–$14.95). It's the kind of place that offers an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet ($27.95) on Wednesday and Thursday nights; sushi fanatics will find it adequate at best. Among the Japanese options, I prefer the lightly battered, deep-fried katsu of chicken or pork ($13.95) with rice: save your sushi dollars for a Japanese place. And with several good Thai restaurants nearby, skip the sprinkling of Thai curries and noodle dishes ($9.95–$12.95), too. Order Korean for your best chance of leaving the casual, value-priced, 60-seat Sushi Yasu feeling satisfied — and if you eat enough chili-accented dishes, floating on a cloud of endorphins.
Sushi Yasu, located at 617 Main Street in Waltham, is open Mon–Thurs, from 11:30 am–3 pm and 5–10 pm; Friday and Saturday, from 11:30 am–3 pm and 5–10:30 pm; and Sun, from 4:30–10 pm. Call 781-894-9783.