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The first New York City branch of YO!, a popular London-based chain of Japanese restaurants, opened today in New York City.
Sure, NYC’s got no shortage of sushi restaurants, but this one’s got its own thing going on. The dishes are carried through the restaurant via conveyor belt—you help yourself to whatever looks good. We got a special preview of the restaurant and spoke with Mike Lewis, the chain’s executive chef.
How it works: The dishes on the conveyor belt are served in color-coded dishes; the color indicates the price you’ll pay, ranging from $3.50 to $8.00. When you’re done eating, your server counts the colored bowls to add up the total.
A menu with pictures allows you some idea of what you’re grabbing off the belt. But it’s honestly most fun simply to grab whatever looks good and figure out later what it might have been. To order hot dishes like katsu or ramen, you push a button to the side of your table, and a futuristic-looking light changes the color of its glow, indicating to your server to assist.
Of the 85 dishes on YO!’s NYC menu, more than 30 were created specifically for this location.
“They were inspired by a trip to Japan,” Lewis explains. “I met producers and suppliers and found the best dishes across the whole of Japan, different regional foods.”
He suggests trying the kushi katsu, skewers of deep-fried bites like lotus root, cheese-stuffed shishito peppers, and quail eggs. “It’s like a late-night snack, nice with a cold beer,” Lewis says.
He also recommends the aburi sushi, which is nigiri seared using traditional binchotan charcoal. “It adds a nutty flavor. It changes the texture slightly. The rice gets a little toasted,” Lewis says. “It elevates traditional sushi to another level.”
“New York’s a hot spot for food,” he adds. “It’s the best food innovation in the world at the moment. There’s a revolution of food going on. It’s the place where we want to be, so we’re trying to bring the best menu that we can, making it exclusive for New Yorkers to enjoy.”