WHEN my dad came to visit all the way from my home town in California, I knew just the place to take him.
We were celebrating his birthday together on his week-long jaunt over the Atlantic, his first trip across in three years, and I wanted to ensure he had an experience to remember.
I reserved a table at Aberdeen’s hidden gem – Yorokobi by CJ – to mark the milestone.
Tucked away in Huntly Street, it would be easy to walk by the Japanese and Korean-inspired eatery and not know you’ve missed it.
But just one trip inside and you would be hard-pressed to walk anywhere near it again without nipping inside to grab a bite.
We arrived on a Monday night and there wasn’t an empty table in the place. Obviously word of renowned owner CJ’s delectable creations is starting to get around.
The menu was just as busy and packed with variety. Poring over the starters section, we narrowed the list down to a choice of three: soft shell crab, gyoza and scallop tempura.
The gyoza – a deep-fried Japanese style dumpling – was the star of the show.
Packed with tender pieces of chicken, the dumplings were fried to perfection.
It was a seamless partnership of a soft, golden dough parcel and a thick, crispy crown, sealing all the flavours safely inside.
The crab was also a delicate treat. The meaty body was more than enough for two to share. And the crispy legs melted away on my tongue, leaving a fresh, salty kick. It tasted like I was eating the morning’s catch fresh out the net.
We each took a skewer of scallops, which were accompanied by a tangy barbecue sauce.
This seafood selection provided the only minor gripe of the meal, as the heavy batter seemed to drown out the scallop flavour.
Our mains arrived just minutes after we devoured our first course. I chose the je-yook bokeum also known as marinated pork belly, dad selected the bulgoki.
His main of thinly-sliced beef had been marinating in a Korean-inspired sauce for almost a day.
The mound of tender meat boasted a healthy helping of grilled red and green peppers and the plate was still sizzling as the waitress placed it on the table.
The sweetness of the peppers set the tone for the entire dish, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen my dad clear his plate so quickly.
My main boasted a red H for hot on the menu, and was definitely not for the faint-hearted.
The plateful of pork was smothered in spicy, red chilli paste sauce, triggering watery eyes and a runny nose from the very first taste.
A handful of spring onion and sweet, caramelised onions helped balance the intense heat and a final hint of ginger punctuated every chopstick bite of the sizzling creation.
By the time the dessert menu made it back round, we were both too stuffed from all our scrumptious selections to even consider another bite.
The night’s service matched the food’s high calibre, making for one memorable birthday dinner.
With a spring water and diet coke rounding off the bill, we got a table of food for a reasonable £49.15.
As we waddled out of the eatery I knew the night had been a hit when dad, who usually has the whole of LA to choose from, insisted the meal was one of the best he had tasted.