Anyone taking a stroll along Second Street lately may have noticed a relatively new boutique restaurant with a Japanese name: Yasu.
At first glance, one might assume that Yasu is a Japanese steakhouse, or perhaps a sushi restaurant. Is it? Let’s just say that owner George Stavros is well-traveled.
From New York to Mykonos, he’s brought his family’s favorite dishes from around the world to Yasu, which he and his two sons, Dimitri and Ted Stavros, opened in the heart of Belmont Shore over the summer.
Even the restaurant’s name has multiple interpretations—with a different spelling, “yassou” means “hello” in Greek, Stavros explained.
“We brought the whole world into one restaurant,” Stavros told the Business Journal.
All of the menu items are personal. Many were drawn from international cuisine the Stavros family has tried somewhere along their travels, others, like the “teddy roll,” are family creations.
For now, Yasu is a sleek nighttime restaurant. It’s where you’ll find low lighting, shining monochrome flooring, decor with color contrasts and uptempo music as soon as the patio and doors open at 5 p.m. In February, Stavros said he and his sons will begin brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays.
Yasu’s menu is partially organized by temperature. Under “cold,” you’ll find adventurous takes on sushi rolls, tacos as well as Greek and Italian inspired small plates. The “strawberry roll” packs a unique punch of flavors, combining salmon with shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado—and strawberry, of course.
Under the “hot” section, patrons can peruse a whole other spectrum of unique offerings from fried chicken to mussels. The Spanish octopus—with chorizo, hummus, butternut squash and achiote marinade—was based off of a dish he tried in Marbella, Spain. Yasu’s pork chop comes from a trip to New York City and is served with a cauliflower mash with mushrooms.
The filet mignon, with truffle ponzu, crispy onion and kale chips, was inspired by a dish Stavros’ family tried at a Japanese restaurant in Greece—a subtle hint to where the name Yasu (or Yassou) was drawn from.
Yasu also offers a beer, wine and Champagne selection as well as a list of craft cocktails made with Sabe vodka, Sabe tequila and Sabe rum—distilled spirits with sake blended down to the legal limit of beer and wine, Stavros said.
“You can’t tell the difference,” he said of the spirits within cocktails like the island dream, strawberry lemon drop, spicy margarita and rum old fashioned.
Stavros also advises patrons not to skip over some of the more familiar menu items, like the cheeseburger, which is basically a blend of beef and bacon.
“This cheeseburger is out of control,” he said. “I own fast food restaurants and I’ve always wanted an amazing burger” on this menu.
Stavros has been in the food business since he was 20 years old, when he first got involved in building restaurants as a contractor. Now, he owns two fast food restaurant chains—Hot Off The Grill and Mr. Pete’s Burgers—which have eight locations throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Having grown up in Belmont Heights and Huntington Beach, Stavros has warm memories of frequenting Second Street with his family. Yasu was something he felt strongly about bringing to the seaside dining corridor.
Yasu “brings a vibe … it’s hip, it’s chic. We wanted to make it a boutique-type restaurant that people could dress up or not, have a nice date night or celebratory family night,” he said. “It’s just something that I felt was needed on Second Street.”
Yasu, at 5201 Second St., is open from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Brunch service will start in February on Saturdays and Sundays.