We were only two bites into our meals at Yoki Social Table, when thoughts started to turn to when we could feasibly come back again.
Now there are many things which signal a fantastic food destination, but planning a return trip before finishing the meal in question must be one of the most significant.
You may not yet have heard of Yoki's permanent residence in Crookes: I had not.
The Korean soul food venue started life as a pop up at the brilliant Union Street co-working space in the city centre, which has a different independent food trader catering for all kinds of palates each work day. It beats a soggy sandwich or a lifeless salad any time.
I’d always meant to try the Yoki pop up, but it was a recommendation from the Sheffield food bloggers @Eats_nTweets which highlighted their new permanent venue tucked away outside The Ball pub on Crookes itself.
It’s a tiny place, and I walked past twice before seeing the sign in chalk scrawled on an A-board on the pavement.
Inside is cute and contemporary, with touches of greenery, stools as well as tables and cool lighting.
It definitely lends itself to gatherings of friends, and that’s also how Yoki was set up by the two couples who are behind it, Kay Kim and Denny Song, and Eun and Jay Park.
“We’re all good friends who met at church”, said Kay, a former interior design specialist who splits the restaurant duties with her friends.
“Eun who is our chef is really good at cooking and she always had us round for dinner on a Saturday night – we thought it would be a good idea to have a Korean restaurant where everyone can try it.
“What we try to do is more authentic Korean food. Yoki has a few meanings – in Korea when you are hungry you say ‘let’s go for Yoki.”
The permanent venue opened in August.
Kay added: “It’s is going well and getting busier – I think Korean food is getting more known in London and other places now.”
Our lunch started with hot drinks, an aromatic pot of steaming red rose and hibiscus tea for Ellie, and a hot ‘DaBang’ coffee for me.
For such a tiny cup the coffee packed a punch, and its sweetness reminded me rather a lot of Vietnamese coffee, often made with condensed milk.
The menu is short and easy to navigate – a plus when it comes to Asian cuisine.
There’s no 12 page menus and endless variations on each dish here, just a printed sheet with clear sections. Ordering was the work of about 90 seconds.
We both ordered the koroke without knowing what it actually entailed, and they arrived as a starter. It turns out koroke is a cousin of the croquette: expect a well defined and crunchy, thick coating, almost reminiscent of cornflakes, wrapped around a flavoursome mixture of potatoes and vegetables.
On the side were small dishes of minutely sliced and slashed vegetables, in a beautifully punchy, crunchy and not-too pungent sauce, called kimchi slaw. This was the ideal contrast to the fluffy potato croquettes.
Presentation is not an afterthought here.
Colours, textures and patterns are carefully considered at every turn, and even the simple koroke and side salad looked exquisite.
For mains, my chicken bao was an Instagram lover’s dream.
Two soft and pillow-like steamed bao buns – almost milky in their flavour – perched upon a small silver platter.
They were packed with fat chunks of Korean fried chicken, all tangy sauce and crispy bits, encasing soft juicy chicken inside.
Points of interest came from the shredded vegetables, strong spicy, millennial-pink mayonnaise and the nuts scattered on top.
This isn’t fine dining but it was one of the tastiest dishes I have ever eaten – joy on a plate, with fresh ingredients and a healthy aftertaste left behind.
Ellie’s main course centred around that fermented mainstay of Korean food, kimchi, too.
She found the fried rice, topped with an egg and a side of Korean fried chicken, had more than enough protein to satisfy her ‘rapacious’ appetite.
The rice had plenty of colour and flavour as well, with golden and green vegetables tangled through it, and a pretty flower garnish on the top.
Desserts weren’t available at Yoki when we visited, but Kay said there would be pancakes, as well as soups, on their new winter menu which is launching soon.
The four also offer brunch, plus occasional evening dining and are planning cooking classes covering topics such as kimchi making.
There has been a surge of new eateries in Crookes recently, and on the same road No Name is also making a name for itself, with a recent mention in the Good Food Guide less than a year after opening. Yoki is a fine addition to that flourishing scene, and we will be back.
Our bill came to £29 for two people, with hot drinks.
Yoki Social Table is at 160 Crookes, and Union Street in the city centre on Tuesdays.