Sharing is caring at the newly opened Yugto in Valletta

There was a time when Asian food meant oily Chinese with bright red sweet and sour pork and equally bright lemon chicken. Thankfully that has changed and we are seeing more variety (and better quality) Asian establishments opening their doors. Yugto is the latest edition, with healthier Asian dishes that favour steaming over frying and mixing flavours and textures. AMY MICALLEF DECESARE gets a sneak peek. 

17 October 2017, 7:18pm
Last updated on 17 October 2017, 7:29pm
Walking through the hustle and bustle of Old Theatre Street on a Friday afternoon, I make my way to YUGTO, eyes shining, stomach growling. Making our way up the stairs, my guest and I were taken in by the familiar smell of… dumplings? Yes, my sense of smell is that fine-tuned. Eager to get a taste and feel of the up and coming restaurant, we even sprinted up the last few steps, an activity I do not partake in very often. Out of breath, we were greeted by a beaming Shaun Lee, founder of YUGTO and creator of the ‘sharing is caring’ theme and concept of the Asian-inspired restaurant. 

Having spent years travelling the world, and running two popular Asian restaurants locally, Shaun developed a keen sense and passion for the eclectic world of Asian cuisine, wanting nothing more than to gift the Maltese population with his very own fresh dumplings and deliciously warm and soothing ramen soup. But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. 

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Valletta is the place to be nowadays, with streets, funky bars and cosy restaurants over-flowing with Malta’s youths (as well as those who are a tad older) regardless of what day of the week it is. 

Love for Asian food? Check. Passion to open a restaurant? Check. All that was missing? The perfect location. That is where Frank Grima came into the picture. Whilst scouting the streets for the perfect location for his brainchild, YUGTO, Shaun bumped into Frank. The two got on like a house on fire, Frank (like myself) fell hopelessly in love with the food and the rest is history. 

Shaun Lee (left) and Frank Grima (right)
Shaun Lee (left) and Frank Grima (right)
Shaun shows as much passion for the décor of the restaurant as he does for the food. Though the doors of the restaurant had not quite opened to the public, I was there on official tasting business and Shaun explained his plans – the installation of a large, cherry blossom tree. It is clear that he is cutting no corners. I have to say, the sheer authenticity of the décor, ambiance and food is unparalleled, but I don’t want to spoil any surprises just yet. 

Let’s get to those dumplings, shall we? Sitting on the chef’s table, my guest and I were presented with some tasters. Accompanied by a couple of craft beers (which is on tap and also significantly cheaper than at other places on the island), they went down a right treat. Beef bulgogi – let me explain – featuring incredibly tender slices of meat, accompanied by Shimeji mushrooms and a rich Japanese bolgogi sauce, crunchy fresh edamame beans, which are always good fun, red duck curry with jasmine rice, prawn and avocado roll tempura, pad thai and the star of the show: the-cooked-for-over-12-hours ramen soup. Need I go on?

I’ve often been described as a ‘selfish eater’, with a tendency to not want to share my food. Such an attitude stems from a traumatising childhood experience, when my uncle stole my chips in cold blood. With this in mind, can you only imagine how much I suffered, knowing I would have to share those Asian delicacies? Even more so knowing they were just tasters? I digress.

 

What makes YUGTO so different from the rest, I hear you ask? Firstly, they’ve revolutionised everything you thought you knew about Asian food by introducing the concept of ‘sharing is caring’ Asian tapas. Secondly, many associate such a cuisine with an overload of oil and late night tummy aches. Again, YUGTO goes against the grain, as they make it their mission to give you a more refined, healthier but equally (if not more) delicious version of your favourites. 

Invite your buds, invite your partner, invite your 23 family members and give in to YUGTO’s charm. You know you want to. 

 

YUGTO

Old Theatre Street,

Valletta

Tel: 99724928

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