CONTRARY to popular opinion, Yo! Sushi is not all raw fish and cold rice, as some people imagine the dining experience to be.
The cool Japanese eaterie does do the aforementioned dishes in abundance, with something like 48 sushi options.
But it also offers plenty of warming dishes, soups and broths, rice, noodles, tempura and hot classics such as grilled chicken, salmon, beef and duck, as well as lots of veggie options and salads.
It is a fun dining experience, and with its reliance on simply cooked fish, meat and veggie dishes, can feel super-healthy too.
On a day out shopping with the younger daughter, we smelled the tantalising cooking aromas before we’d even spied Yo! Sushi in Fenwick.
The setting on the ground floor in the middle of the department store really suits the informal, ‘fast-food’ style of the chain.
You really are in the thick of it, sandwiched (so to speak) between Pret and the magazine and newspaper stands, with views of the cosmetics hall and the tempting array of goodies on sale in the food hall.
Customers perch at the conveyor belt or take a seat at an adjacent table and select colour-coded dishes (priced between £1.70 and £5) from the conveyor belt and order hot food and drinks via call buttons.
The empty plates are all totted up at the end. The dishes are all also helpfully labelled with their calories on the menu.
The daughter especially loved the pick-and-mix feel to lunch, having a little of ‘what takes your fancy’ and the buzz to it.
It was a case of wooden chopsticks at the ready.
A word of warning, though, it is easy to get carried away when presented with so many attractive dishes. But if you stick to a plan for a couple of more filling hot rice/noodles dishes as a base and then sass up as you choose, it needn’t be expensive.
We perched at the belt and started off by ordering hot rice and noodle dishes as base dishes. Veggie Firecracker rice, £2.30, spicy rice with Asian vegetables, was pepped up with spring onions, red onions, diced yellow peppers and a touch of chilli warmth.
Chicken Firecracker rice, £2.90, and pan-friend chicken Yakisoba noodles, £2.90, with mildly spiced tangy sauce with veggies and chicken, made for tummy-filling choices.
While they were being cooked to order by the army of chefs on parade that lunchtime, we picked at snack-size cucumber maki, rice-filled rolls with cucumber and sesame seeds, wrapped in seaweed, £1.70, and grilled aubergine, £2.90, in a garlic, sesame and ginger dressing which had a delicious warmth. Lovely appetisers these were, low in calories, but big on taste.
I sipped a glass of One Tree Hill Chardonnay, £4 per 175ml, the daughter a Frobishers mango juice, £2.35 per 250ml, and we liberally topped up throughout the lunch with unlimited fizzy filter water, £1.05 per person (unlimited green tea is £1.50 and miso soup, £2). We snazzed up our base dishes with chicken teriyaki, £3.40, and ‘hairy prawns’, £3.90, fishy delicacies, complete with tails, wrapped in ‘hairy‘ feather-light kadaifi pastry, with wasabi mayonnaise with a delicious kick, ideal for dipping; and prawn katsu, £3.90, crispy fried prawns in Japanese breadcrumbs, with a fruity sauce.
Chicken teriyaki, normally a favourite of mine, is grilled in a sweet, sticky, soy-based sauce, but this was a tad on the runny side, and lacking in the usually delicious sticky factor. Minor niggles aside, it was an enjoyable lunch, the pick-and-mix aspect makes it very sociable, and hot dishes are prepared and served up in double-quick time.
We liked how fresh everything was and the clean feel to the surroundings, the fact that it is ‘fast food’ but healthy too.
And to desserts... Fresh fruit dish of sliced pineapple, honeydew melon, grapes and strawberries, £2.90, was light and refreshing, but expensive. Lemon shortbread cake had a tangy lemon meringue-type filling, with almond and pistachio garnish, £3.90, Dorayaki are soft, bite-size Japanese pancakes, £2.90, with custard filling and raspberry dipping sauce, and chocolate mochi, £3.40, was a quality chocolate fix, a soft rice cake ball filled with dark chocolate ganache.
Address: Yo! Sushi, Fenwick, Northumberland Street, Newcastle. Tel: 0191 406 0801.
Open: Mon-Fri, 11.30am to 8pm; Sat, 11.30am to 7pm; Sun, 11.30am-5pm.
First impressions: Fun, colourful setting and an informal dining experience. Perch at the busy conveyor belt and choose colour-coded dishes or bag a side table.
Welcome: Friendly staff are brisk and on the ball.
Style, design and furnishings: Bright and cheery and a buzzy atmosphere. Army of chefs on parade making up dishes for the conveyor belt and hot dishes to order.
Cuisine: Japanese delicacies.
Service: Good. Staff happy to advise on dishes.
Value: Good. Also, check out their special offer days and great-value set menu.
Disabled facilities: Accessible.