Yamazushi
4711 Hope Valley Road
Woodcroft, Durham
Website

Yamazushi is a Japanese restaurant that’s been in the Woodcroft Shopping Center since 1986, owned by the same husband and wife pair, George and Mayumi Yamazawa. I’ve been once before, at least four years ago, and it struck me then as your standard sushi and teriyaki restaurant with prices that were somewhat steeper than the others nearby. I discovered on my recent visit that Yamazushi has undergone a transformation—they now offer a unique Japanese dining experience for this area, focused on kaiseki, a multicourse meal of small but thoughtfully planned out courses. In addition to a few starters and midsize entrees that change daily ($6–$16, black cod miso, chef’s sashimi platter, and hot pots are what I remember), Yamazushi offers a three-course kaiseki meal to walk-in customers that is $35. If you are interested in the five-course (somewhere around $50) or eight-course (somewhere around $80) options, you’ll need to make reservations ahead of time. You can also request a vegetarian or vegan option when you call. Also worth noting is that the restaurant can only accommodate parties of one to four people.

I wasn’t planning to check out Yamazushi’s new options when we went, so my pictures are crap (sorry!).  We ordered a bottle of the Treasure Ship Junmai Ginjo sake and were surprised to be presented with a platter of ceramic drinking vessels to choose our preference from for drinking the sake. It turns out that Chef George also makes all the beautiful pottery that drinks and food are served on! The sake was a little fruity and was a great accompaniment to the meal. Japanese teas and beers are also available.

Since we weren’t prepared for a long meal, we ordered off the regular menu. We were surprised with a first course compliments of the kitchen anyhow, and it was a gorgeous, simple salad with great flavors.

Our shrimp shumai were next, and they were tasty.


The filling tasted fresh and clean. My husband then had a second appetizer for his main course, the tuna tartare with pine nuts and Asian pear.

He found it rather small, but it was just an appetizer portion, and it tasted fine. I opted for the eggplant with miso instead.

It was really, really good. The eggplant was at that stage where the flesh melts in your mouth. I loved it, and it was rather filling for a small portion.

We didn’t stay for dessert, but there were some options that sounded delicious like macha green tea ice cream. When we left, I definitely felt like I’d enjoyed a relaxing evening at Yamazushi, and I’d like to go back to have a kaiseki dinner at some point (let me know if you want to go with me!). The details like handmade ceramics and exquisite presentations are fantastic, but it is still a restaurant that’s heavy on your wallet, so it might be best thought of for a special night out.

Reviewed 26 Nov 11.  

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