The return of Yamaguchi to Main Street is the comeback of 2015.
In 2013, the original Yamaguchi was destroyed by fire. Two and one-half years later, the gracious restaurant is back, a few doors from its first location, and so are diners devoted to the subtleties of classic Japanese cuisine, especially sushi.
Owners Yasuko and Akira Yamaguchi preside over their reborn spot, where regulars will find veteran chefs and waitresses, too. Since 1988, everything has changed and nothing has changed. Simplicity and clarity reign.
The new Yamaguchi is a bright dining room, modestly appointed, full of bamboo plywood and light touches. Photos that decorated its predecessor are in place. The sushi bar is very busy. Takeout abounds. And there's not a trace of either notice-me fusion fare or overorchestrated sushi rolls.
Begin with any of Yamaguchi's "special appetizers," a two-column list that's traditional and, given the competition from glitzy establishments, absolutely refreshing. Sample lustrous fluke usuzukuri, thinly sliced and fanned out, to be finished with ponzu sauce. Savor the rich sashimi of fatty tuna and the salmon roe with grated yam. Nibble on the squid flecked with spicy cod roe and the tiny, fried Japanese icefish.
Yamaguchi's lobster katsu, a fried cutlet, is very good. Shrimp and vegetable tempuras deliver crunch, flavor and lightness. Dive into the excellent seaweed salad.
Nigirizushi, or uncooked fish on ovals of vinegared rice, is outstanding. Some favorites: fatty tuna, beef-red maguro tuna, delicate yellowtail, more assertive mackerel, scallop, salmon and toasty eel.
Many of the colorful sushi rolls are recommended, both for their taste and their dimensions. These are not the steroidal monsters that too often overwhelm this type of sushi. Yamaguchi's are balanced and right. Consider the yellowtail with scallion, fatty tuna with scallion, the multi-fish rainbow number and the spicy tuna roll, seasoned just enough without masking the fish.
Fine cooked choices include the tender, rosy roast duck; and the lush, marinated pork belly. The meaty deep-fried chicken wings will appeal even to purists. Yamaguchi sends out respectable gyoza, or fried dumplings; and steamed shrimp shumai. Noodles dishes are fine, from the chilled soba to the hot udon.
During recent visits, tableside preparations of simmered beef, or shabu-shabu; meat-and-vegetable hot pot sukiyaki and seafood hot pot yosenabe for two weren't available. If you're inclined, check a day in advance.
Fresh melon or ice cream conclude the meal. You'll want no more. Toast Yamaguchi's revival with your remaining sake.