I once waited tables at a local Japanese restaurant called Yamato in Agoura Hills — just like all the other Japanese girls strapped for a little cash. Looking back, I have no idea where I got the energy to hold a regular 8-to-5 job and drive over to the restaurant afterward and work until 11:00 p.m., and still manage to go out to eat with friends after closing. And all this while enduring the hideous kimono dress we waitresses had to wear!
Running around like a mad woman on crazy busy Friday and Saturday nights were tough but not as tough as serving delicious food on an empty stomach. I usually didn’t have enough time to eat before starting my shift so I would go hungry most of the time, and ending up salivating over all the dishes that came out of the kitchen and the sushi bar and fighting against the sizzling aroma of steaks and seafood from the teppan tables. You have no idea how many times I wanted to just dash out of the restaurant with a tray full of sushi rolls!
I got hit with the sudden urge to go to Yamato the other night — a feeling very similar to the craving I had when I was working there on an empty stomach years ago. I thought about sushi many times during my 10-day fast but I was a bit surprised to find that my craving was more toward the American sushi than the traditional kind. And it was the sushi and sashimi from Yamato that I craved the most. So my boyfriend and I headed over there on Saturday night to tame my craving and to walk down the culinary memory lane… and thank goodness I didn’t have to sport that lame kimono this time! (The dress code had since changed and service staff are now wearing a white dress shirt and a pair of black slacks. Why couldn’t they have implement that when I was there?)
Among the many delicious food on the menu, there are three things in particular that I love from this place – two are sushi rolls called Double Sake Punch, a salmon lover’s delight, and 911, a spicy tuna roll covered in avocado and chili oil, both pictured above. (These rolls just killed me when I used to work there!) I always thought naming the sushi roll 911 was a bit inappropriate but I guess it’s just an innocent attempt to emphasize how hot this roll is from the chili oil. And last but not least, my all-time favorite item from Yamato is its house dressing.
The dressing here is seriously so delicious that I try to replicate it at home by mixing onion, daikon radish, ginger, garlic, vegetable oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce in a blender, and although it comes out close, I could never duplicate the exact flavor. I usually order the sashimi salad as a way to enjoy the dressing (pictured on top). The combination of crispy lettuce, juicy tomatoes, crunchy pickled gobo (burdock), airy katsuobushi (bonita flakes) and pieces of fresh sashimi dipped in ginger dressing is refreshing and mouth watering. I usually alternate dipping the fish in the dressing and the citrus ponzu sauce to add a little variation to the dish.
In addition to sushi menu, regular combination dinner sets are also available. My boyfriend ordered a two item combo this night, with assorted tempura and a halibut steak.
Maybe I’m biased because I’ve worked here in the past and I have a special attachment to the place, but I really do enjoy the food here. Most of the sushi rolls are very non-traditinoal but they are creative and really fun to eat. Yamato have several locations but my favorites are this one in Agoura Hills and the one in Encino. Check them out, and make sure to tip those waitresses well 🙂
28700 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills, CA 91301