Our Gourmet: YouYou in Nashua serves up Asian food with gourmet flair
It had been quite a while since we enjoyed YouYou, so when a friend suggested we go there we jumped all over the chance.
One could drive right by YouYou a hundred times without knowing it's there, tucked near a pizza shop next to a tax-preparation service and next to an office building, behind a gas station off Broad Street, at the north end of a shopping center of big-box stores and chain restaurants. But once you get there, it's all good. All the locals know where it is, and it bustles like a beehive.
YouYou is a chic little eatery with a nice lounge with high tables for eating, a small bar and a big-screen TV. Nicely separated from the lounge is the dining area and sushi bar, and the dining area has tables set among and behind angled, curved walls that make it feel larger than it really is yet offer a privacy-inducing intimacy. Small lights from ceiling tracks are everywhere — ambient lighting at its best — and there's not a harsh, glowing bulb in sight. It is a classy setting for enjoying delicate Asian food that is as delicious as the ambience is comfortable.
The restaurant offers tons of sushi as well as Japanese, Korean, and Thai dishes, and the website describes selections "from Euro Asian dishes from Thailand to new modern favorites." Indeed, there is vast selection of different tastes and approaches to what we think is outstanding food at one of the very best Asian bistros around.
Besides the food and its award-winning kitchen, You You succeeds with a well-trained staff. A hostess (or two) can seat patrons quickly and efficiently because, the moment a table becomes vacant, it is cleared, thoroughly cleaned, and re-set by two task-dedicated staff members. Tables at YouYou turn over quicker than we have ever seen. For our three or four visits, we have never made a reservation, and have never waited more than a few minutes — even on a busy Saturday night at prime time.
The only dish we repeated from past visits was an appetizer: deep-fried Five-Spice Tempura Soft Shelled Crab ($12.50), which is, simply, a spectacular dish, piled high with tasty grilled vegetable bits and scallions, loaded with garlic and crumbling deep-fried batter pieces — and hearty portions of the delectable Atlantic crab. For some American chopsticks users, this is a difficult dish, what with small pieces of carrots, peppers, onions and all the tempura crumbles, so we allowed ourselves forks for the crab.For a smaller appetite, this outstanding appetizer and a salad or bowl of soup is enough for a meal. For the hungry, it is plenty for one (you) or two (you and you).
YouYou offers little sauce and zero table condiments. You can certainly receive add-ons at request, but the chefs bank on their know-how in the kitchen to properly add any flavor enhancements that the dish might call for. Halfway through the crab I remembered this from a previous visit, and committed again to enjoy the food as it comes.
Healthy portions (not huge) and proper preparation bespeak healthy and nutritious meals that satisfy, showing off the entree's properties and not relying on sauce or gimmicks ... or salt. This was evident in our Salmon Teriyaki ($18) entree, which was a very simple plate of a salmon filet, expertly sauteed with garlic and light Japanese teriyaki sauce, accompanied by steamed white rice and a cabbage slaw. A low-key, balanced presentation offering the goodness of a medium cut of salmon and its lightly spiced seafood goodness with a starch and vegetable. Nothing fancy, but a most pleasing dinner, healthy and delicious.
We also sampled a Tempura Shrimp and Vegetable appetizer ($9.75) which came with a small bowl of ginger/teriyaki tempura sauce for dipping, and featured four large shrimps and four lightly deep-fried cuts of vegetable. This dish made another case for no sauce — we did very little dipping. Enjoy the food, not the sauce.
A solid Thai entree of Red Curry Scallops ($16) was a delightful blend of spicy coconut/red curry sauce in a bowl over sliced sea scallops and an eclectic blend of thinly sliced onions, peppers and other vegetables. It was served with a small helping of steamed rice, and six cooling slices of tomatoes and cucumbers on the side. Again, a nice blend of complementary tastes and temperatures, with the spice of the curry ("hot and spicy" on the menu) countered by the cool slices of vegetable. There needed to be a bit more rice, which was presently supplied on request at no charge.
There are several curries on the menu, but also entrees such as Steak Teriyaki, Seafood Diablo and Pork Cutlets. And of course there is sushi galore at YouYou — pages and pages of it on the menu and in all manner of appetizer, side-dish or entree sizes. Huge platters of rolls, sashimi, sushi and special combinations kept whizzing by us destined for other tables, as diners who had sushi on their mind downed dozens of the seafood and rice rolls.
YouYou patrons know it is all about the food, and they enthusiastically devote their time and attention to the fare and the experience, and everyone — there were dozens of diners this night, table after table — was having a good time, engaging with waitstaff and each other in a spirited night out.Although Japanese sushi dominates, there are seafood and vegetable and meat entrees inspired by Europe (even Italy), Korea, India, Malaysia and Thailand.
Rice-and-noodle bowls and large party platters of imaginative sushi combinations grace two sections of the menu.
Sizzling Korean hot-pot entrees combined at the table in a stone pot lets the aroma of smoky Korean spice linger. Japanese miso soup and a nicely prepared side salad accompanies Japanese entrees.
YouYou goes on and on, with class and style, very good service, an extensive wine list and racks of wine on display, a reasonably-priced, smart menu, and a smarter business plan that maximizes customer experience and relies on its well-known expertise from the kitchen.
It is one of the Nashua area's very best for quality, comfortable, low-key gourmet dining.