Several new restaurants have angled for summer opening in Anchorage, which several of us at Channel 2 have been watching on our morning commutes with rising interest. Digital director Jeff Rivet recently spotted an open sign in East Anchorage, asking me to stop in and have a look.
Yes Bistro, on the northwest corner of DeBarr Road and Bragaw Street, is the latest tenant of a building that’s seen a variety of previous family-restaurant tenants. It’s a slightly hairy intersection thanks to the proximity of the DeBarr Costco, but there’s extensive parking on the north and west sides of the building, which is most easily reached by pulling in while headed west on DeBarr.
Stepping into the restaurant, I felt like the transition was night and day – or, more precisely, day and night. Numerous windows keep the feel of the dining room somewhat airy, but at its core Yes features dark walls and muted colors, with arty brushed-aluminum accents and freestanding high-walled round booths. Tables and chairs are on hand although they’re a lot less atmospheric, with many of the booths also offering a good look at the fireplace and open kitchen around which the seating is built.
The menu -- which has expanded in the short time since I ate at the restaurant -- features a mix of upscale entrees, alongside more conventional lunch items like soups, sandwiches and salads. Many of the more intriguing items such as Kobe beef spaghetti and meatballs were full dinner plates, leaving me torn between ordering something too heavy or too simple until I consulted the list of daily specials. Splitting the difference, I asked to try the Moroccan game hen ($19) and settled in for about 25 minutes of casual people-watching until I was served.
While I was waiting, my waitress dropped off a plate of bread, something of a craze these days at new restaurants around town. Spiced with rosemary, the slices were dense and served warm, which made them more appealing than they’d be at room temperature. I particularly appreciated the vinegar and oil on the table to match it, with both slightly sweet and a little subdued to let its own flavor stand out. It’s definitely appreciated, much like the opening course at Seward’s Folly, although it might make ordering an appetizer a little redundant.
The game hen announced itself with an intriguing aroma from of its subtle yet complex blend of spices, ranging from hints of nutmeg and cinnamon to weaker flavors I couldn’t quite track down. A modest amount of hoisin cilantro citrus sauce was applied to the bird’s skin, with a smaller quantity on the edge of the plate for use on the inner sections of meat, which were still suffused with flavor from the spice mix. I took my time eating the generous portion on hand, savoring the fall-off-the-bone softness as well as its refreshing take on a traditional dish.
I took what the menu described as “ginger broccolini jasmine rice” to be a single side dish but it turned out to be two, with a plate-spanning sheaf of broccolini draped over a more modest portion of the rice. The broccolini had a deeper and more textured flavor than broccoli proper, while remaining a light counterpoint to the more intense flavors of everything else on the plate. That included the rice, which had a clean and appealing tang to it from bits of ginger mixed in and steamed with the grains.
While Yes Bistro certainly isn’t the first occupant of its building, the establishment feels like it may have the staying power to last markedly longer than its predecessors. As with many new restaurants the lunch menu could stand to evolve, but during my visit I was reminded of the City Diner, specifically how much it’s come to dominate people’s memories of its Minnesota Drive location. If you’re wondering whether to visit, I’d recommend taking a drive down DeBarr, where signs point to Yes.