When you first set out to Mid-City West to find Yuko Kitchen, you’ll notice immediately how terrible street parking is in the neighborhood. Cough up the change and pay for a metered spot on Wilshire Boulevard if you’re lucky enough to find one there. What you’ll notice next is the adorable flower and vine-lined outdoor patio on Dunsmuir Avenue as you secure that choice parking spot, and you’ll probably think in the back of your head, “Too bad that’s not Yuko. That place looks sweet.” What you’ll finally realize is that the adorable patio is actually Yuko (it’s strangely not actually on Wilshire Boulevard, as its official address states). And then you’ll get very excited.
Once inside Yuko Kitchen, the excitement grows. The kitschy yet completely genuine Japanese café is studded with bright colors, wall art, and miscellaneous artifacts that set it apart from any sushi or coffee house in all of Los Angeles. Healthy American food by nature, but all spun into cute Japanese dishes, Yuko is like anime shop-cum-tea house. It just feels like you’re going to have a good meal here.
And it’s hard not to. From snacks to rolls and soups to boba, from noodles to combination plates and rice bowl to big rolls, Yuko’s menu does not disappoint.
Not unlike the vibe of the café itself, the food at Yuko is colorful and inviting, with a humble authenticity of simple Japanese flavors and ingredients. The fish and chips here is tempura-battered whitefish and perfectly fried wontons served with a hoisin-like sauce and saline orange-hued aioli (no malt vinegar or dousing of table salt required).
To say that the combination plates are large is a vast understatement. Each variety comes with protein of choice (try the vegan plate, which features impeccably soft teriyaki-crusted tofu), a sushi roll, a shot of miso soup, and a shot of fresh fruit.
If you’re a hand-to-mouth kind of diner, try any of Yuko’s “bowl-itos,” which are essentially Japanese hand rolls done more like burritos. The BBQ eel bowl-ito comes with mixed vegetables, sticky rice, and a paper-thin seaweed “burrito” wrapping (and of course, a BBQ sauce you’ll want to pour straight into your mouth).
Hopefully you save room for dessert, because Yuko has—again, in American-meets-Japanese fashion—a myriad of homemade desserts. There’s the familiar chocolate chip cookie which is incredibly fluffy, the buttery and almost salty green tea shortcake, or the whipped cream-filled cookie sandwich. Try an assortment and have another cup of mint tea to wash them down.
Since our Japanese language classes from college have been almost all but forgotten, we did a quick Google search of the word yuko and found the meaning to be along the lines of “abundant child.” We couldn’t find this meaning to be any more appropriate for Yuko Kitchen. Eat here and you will certainly feel like an abundant child.
5484 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036