It’s always endearing to hear someone speak with a foreign accent. Even if the words are right, they somehow take on a more interesting nuance. (How do I know? I speak English without an American twang.) But when a foreigner speaks an even more foreign language than their own, it becomes a whole different lobster meatball. Take Maison Yaki for instance – far more than just a gastropub with an edge, it’s like a pedigreed Frenchman who speaks perfect Japanese.
You’ll know what I mean when you bite into a chunk of Parisian baguette smothered with whipped butter infused with yuzu kosho citrus chili, which instantly reminds you that your table is located right in the best of both worlds, as chef Greg Baxtrom marries them together masterfully. His skewers feel, look and taste authentically Yakitori-esque, but they get an elegant upgrade with an assortment of classic old-school French sauces.
The chop-stick-holder menu offers snacks, app’s and skewers, where nothing rises above $9. The service is chop-chop, and the delights emerge as they are cooked. The portions are small, flavorful and utterly delicious, and if you’re not careful you can end up ordering practically everything. (We did!) From scallops to lobster, chicken wings to duck breast, lamb loin to pork belly…all draped in astonishingly complimentary sauces like Dauphine, Maltaise, Américaine, A l’orange, Dijonaise, Herbes de provence and Bordelaise. Incroyable!
But it does beg certain questions regarding the need for the one or two gratuitous bistro items on the otherwise unique list of bites. (Will Escargot seriously slither onto menus again? Will Frog’s legs leap back into vogue? I doubt it.)
The lively, colorful and compact bar-bistro with a back garden feels more like an homage to the back-alley Yokocho’s in Shibuya, versus a white-aproned-waiter-with-an-attitude bistro on the left bank. Located right across from his sensational breakout success Olmsted, Baxtrom is clearly on a mission to elevate Brooklyn’s Park Slope into the next dining destination in New York. But what might be good for Park Slopers, is tough for Manhattanites. Most of the knowing crowd are walk-in’s, with an area slightly larger than a pack of Gauloises Blondes for reserved tables that are pilfered up to a month in advance.