East End Eats: Gimme Yama

Yama Q is pure and quaint, virtuous, quiet, and fine
Eschewing the glitz and glamour of “the Hamptons” this time of year, Yama Q is pure and quaint, virtuous, quiet, and fine. Morgan McGivern

The beauty of the restaurant Yama Q in Bridgehampton is that it doesn’t need a review by me or anyone, good or bad. It doesn’t need to have a tattooed, surfer-celebrity chef profile in Hamptons magazine. You won’t read about Beth and Howard Stern slurping miso soup and chomping on burdock salad on Page Six of the New York Post. Nor is it likely that as the Kardashians cut a visible and terrifying swath through our charming villages this summer they will ever cross the threshold of Yama Q. Yama Q is pure and quaint, virtuous, quiet, and fine.

It is a tiny restaurant, with 12 small tables inside and a sushi bar with a few stools. The walls and ceiling are rough-hewn boards, the floor stone. There is a chalkboard with daily specials and a few black and white photographs on the walls. It is closed on Sundays, even in summer. If you blink on your way to hot yoga or the Candy Kitchen, you might miss it. It is the little freestanding, shingled building next to Bobby Van’s.

The night of our visit was one of those hot, muggy evenings. The air-conditioning was kaput but not a single guest complained. The windows and doors were opened and it was all okay. I think that says something about the kind of people who enjoy going to Yama Q — not high maintenance, just here for the food.

We began our meal with spring rolls (actually summer rolls because they weren’t fried), a soft-shell crab special, pork dumplings, and burdock root salad. The spring/summer rolls were absolutely delicious, filled with sweet beets, carrots, mango, cabbage, romaine lettuce, and cucumber. The peanut dipping sauce was just right, substantial and flavorful. The soft-shell crab was also excellent, the crab crunchy from a dusting of cornmeal, served with a small salad on the side and perky ponzu sauce.

The pork dumplings were the best of all. They were folded into pretty pockets and the filling was delicious on its own, but the rich and meaty dipping sauce made them even better. The burdock root salad, usually not one of my favorite items because it can be a bit tough, was also very good. Burdock, similar to lotus root, is a member of the daisy family. This version was crisp and just a bit salty and sweet, shredded and topped with carrots.

From here we moved on to the duck quesadilla, chicken teriyaki, red Thai curry stir-fry, salmon avocado rolls, and some yellowtail sushi. The duck quesadilla was somewhat disappointing because it didn’t have much duck or ducky flavor to it, mostly the jack cheese came through. It was prepared in a nicely baked (not fried) whole wheat tortilla and had excellent guacamole, salsa, and sour cream on the side.

The chicken teriyaki was good but the sliced chicken could have had more flavor. The vegetables were perfectly stir-fried and tasty — bok choy, carrots, red onion, and snap peas. Once we added a bit of ponzu, the chicken improved. The red Thai curry stir-fry with brown rice was very good, although I prefer a bit more spice and Thai curry flavor. The lime wedges served on top helped give this dish a bit more spark. The brown rice was, and always is, excellent here.

The salmon avocado rolls were excellent. It’s hard to review a simple sushi roll; all you ask for is that the fish be fresh, the rice delicately seasoned, and that the roll doesn’t fall apart. These rolls were perfectly prepared. The yellowtail was also just right, mild and buttery.

The service on the night of our visit was great. Our waitress, Babette, was charming and cheerful and the chef-owner’s son Maki was making the rounds, greeting guests. Sushi is expensive everywhere, but I would say the prices at Yama Q are moderate. Starters are $3 to $14, vegetable rolls are $4.50 to $8, sushi rolls $8.50 to $12, entrees are $15 to $28, sides $4 to $11, and desserts are $6 to $9. It doesn’t have a full bar, just a short wine, beer, and sake list that is reasonably priced.

For desserts we tried the blueberry almond streusel pie, banana tempura, and gingerbread. All were great. The blueberry pie had a nicely made bottom crust, crunchy sweet streusel, and good filling. The banana tempura (who invented that, anyway???) was well executed if you like deep-fried fruit. It was crisp and not too greasy. The platter was thoughtfully adorned with a plentiful array of other fresh, sliced fruit, including apples, kiwi, and oranges. There were also two strawberries cooked in tempura batter that were oddly delicious. The gingerbread, which seemed to us an interesting dessert to serve at this time of year, was absolutely perfect — moist and gingery. I hope Yama Q does serve it year round.

The chef-owner, Hisao Shiroyama, has been in the restaurant business on the South Fork for almost 30 years. There are plenty of other sushi restaurants out here nowadays that come and go, change names, and charge more.

“Yama” means mountain in Japanese. “Hisao”: long lived man. Long live the chef and the little mountain that is Yama Q!