Tiptoeing into the shallow end of the Korean-cuisine pool
By MC SLIM JB  |  May 5, 2010


I adore Korean “BBQ”: marinated slices of raw meats that you cook on a little grill inset directly into your tabletop. You dab a piece of cooked meat with some soybean paste, maybe garnish it with a bit of kimchee or one of several other banchan (savory little side dishes), wrap it in curly lettuce leaf, and eat. It combines a lot of fresh East Asian flavors into a single sitting. Yasu is a big, comfortable Korean/Japanese place in Coolidge Corner that not only offers Korean BBQ, but a range of mostly well-executed Korean and Japanese appetizers, entrées, and sushi. 

Yasu | 1366 Beacon Street, Brookline | Monday–Thursday, 5–10:30 pm; Friday and Saturday, 5–11 pm; and Sunday, noon–10 pm | 617.738.2244 

Edamame ($4.95) are well-salted steamed soybeans, the Korean version of beer nuts. A terrific scallion pancake ($9.95) is floppier and less greasy than its Cantonese counterpart: dinner-plate size, eggy and crêpe-like, loaded with scallions. Fried shumai ($5.95) have the crispness of tater tots and a tasty payload of minced shrimp and pork. Tempura vegetables ($13.95), long strips of zucchini and sweet potato, are beautifully deep-fried, so their crunchy batter puffs up into a furry-looking coating. Dumpling soup ($4.50) is a fine rendition of mandu guk: two big minced-beef turnovers in a broth loaded with scrambled egg, sliced duk (gnocchi-like rice cake), scallions, and choy. Sushi and sashimi are prosaic at best, typified by a maki combo ($14.95) of 18 perfunctory rolls: California (imitation-crab and avocado), unagi (broiled eel), and tekka of bland tuna. In this sushi-rich neighborhood, it’s hard to get excited about.

Fortunately, the Korean BBQ is rather better. At $17.95 to $38.95 per plate with a minimum of two orders per table, it includes good rice and a 10-strong assortment of banchan, so it’s a better deal than it sounds. Diamond galbi (short rib, $20.95) and bulgoki (thin-sliced rib eye, $19.95) are standouts, finely balancing beef and marinade flavors. If you prefer yours rarer, commandeer the tongs to remove it from your infrared grill sooner, as Yasu’s servers will leave it to a dry medium-well.

Drinks include an assortment of Korean and Japanese beers, like the lighter-than-lite Hite ($4.95) and tall cans of bone-dry Sapporo ($8.95), plus a few plonky wines by the glass ($5.95). The staff is friendly and hustling, but its command of English is mixed, so menu-pointing to underscore your order is a good idea. If you’re one of those Americans who are curious about Korean cuisine, but find it a little daunting, grill-table BBQ at Yasu will provide a delicious, gently sloping on-ramp.

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