BRIGANTINE - Chinese restaurants have become as common as Italian restaurants in our area, and Japanese restaurants, especially hibachi grills, are hot on their trails. This is not a bad thing, but it makes visiting those restaurants a little less exotic than it used to be.
We liked the idea of being able to choose what we like best from two different menus, one Chinese with offerings of appetizers, soups and entrees, and a complete Japanese menu with the same categories plus assorted sushi and sashimi. That, is the concept at Yuki Hana in Brigantine.
We received two other menus along with the Chinese/Japanese version. One listed special sushi rolls including the Red Dragon roll, Lovely Annie, the Brigantine roll and the AK 47. Another menu listed appetizers.
Our food arrived in short order with a bowl of fried wontons for dipping in hot mustard sauce or duck sauce.
The Kiss of Spring ($7.25), a type of summer roll with all raw ingredients wrapped in Vietnamese rice paper, was stuffed with julienned Romaine, cucumber, shrimp and mango - sliced and arranged on a pool of creamy fruit sauce. They were light, and a dramatic change from the fried rolls we also sampled. Spring rolls ($2) were the more recognizable deep-fried dumplings made from wonton wrappers, dangerously hot from the fryer, and all of the regular elements such as grated carrot and Chinese cabbage inside, with a hint of mild curry powder. A bowl of hot and sour soup ($2) was more peppery than sour, but loaded with interesting ingredients including cloud ear mushrooms and tofu strips. It was thickened with just the right amount of slurry (cornstarch and water) to give it texture without being overly thick.
My dining companion prefers sushi that is cooked and sampled a California roll ($4.70), a Philadelphia roll ($5.50), and a Sweetheart roll ($10.95) made with tempura shrimp and kani with thinly sliced avocado, shrimp and smoked salmon layered across the top. All were well made, although a scroll through the Internet for information about kani yielded mixed results, since some sites said it meant real crab meat and others called it kani kama, or imitation crab meat. Small matter, we actually found neither in the roll, only shrimp. All rolls were the inside-out style with rice on the outside and nori seaweed holding the main ingredients together in the center.
Back to China for the last entree, Seafood Szechuan style ($12.50) loaded with shrimp, scallops, surimi, the real fake crab meat made from fish, and a lobster tail in its shell. Plenty of vegetables were included in the brown, house special hot and spicy sauce; baby corn, red and green peppers, broccoli florets, straw mushrooms, sliced water chestnuts and lotus root.
As we discussed dessert, our server had already taken care of it. We each were presented with an ice cold orange that had been carved and replaced into its skin in a way that allowed us to remove the segments with a toothpick. Cold and refreshing.
The decor at Yuki Hana is pretty typical although we both noticed how clean the dining rooms were and that it was much larger inside than it appeared from the parking lot. We saw as many signs for "Coke" as we did any interesting artifacts from either Asian culture. The sushi bar and chairs were made out of light wood, the booth backs in salmon pink and the beige window curtains were all tied in identical knots to let the light inside. Asian inspired rock and roll played in the background, but was drowned out by children's laughter.
Our server dressed in black with a shirt bearing the Yuki Hana logo, after wrapping up our bag of leftovers politely asked if we had soy sauce at home. We assured her we did.
C.C. Hoyt is the pseudonym of a southern New Jersey food writer. Write to Hoyt c/o Features Editor Steve Cronin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Restaurant-ratings guide: 4 stars, extraordinary; 3 stars, excellent; 2 stars, good; 1 star, fair; 0 stars, poor.
3628 Brigantine Blvd.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and noon to 10 p.m. Sundays
Liquor license: No
Credit cards: Visa/MC
Disabled access: Yes
Price range: Appetizers: Chinese $1.10 to $9.95; Japanese $3.45 to $8.95; entrees: Chinese $7.95 to $12.50, Japanese $8.50 to $17.95
Our bill for two: $50 plus tip