Jonathan Schofield likes the buzz and the energy and the wine
Only Yu is presumably owned by a person called Yu. In this restaurant though it will never be only you. It's popular, very popular.
On my lunchtime visit on a Thursday there must have been 150-175 munchers on the two levels of the restaurant on George Street in Chinatown. It was noisy with human chatter not bloody loud music. Chatter in busy restaurants is all the tune we need.
I like the energy, the atmosphere, the service and the food - it's on my favourite's list
The restaurant occupies the old site of Pacifica which opened some time in the early noughties. That was when I was working at City Life magazine. I recall going along to a tasting with the editor Luke Bainbridge and other contributors.
The owner - was it Raymond? - said: "Try this wine." We tried it and grimaced at the hideous flavours and then we saw him smirking. "You've just drunk three penis wine," he said laughing, "very good for your manhood, for virility. Seal, deer and dog penis."
You could say it was a stiff drink.
There's still much of the decor of Pacifica about Only Yu all these years later with its pale walls but the menu is no longer a Thai/Chinese combo but unashamedly Chinese. It's a cracker.
There's a maitre d here who is a real star. He's got a smile as broad as the Yangtze and mingles efficiency with humour. He leads and the rest of the staff follow. Chinatown is not renowed as a repositary of happy smiley customer service but Only Yu bucks that trend.
The menu's as long as the Yangze.
On my first visit I had the turbot at £49. I've written about this already as my November dish of the month. This is what I wrote.
I’m partial to a flat fish and the king of the flat fish is the turbot. This is a bottom-dwelling beast that can never be two-faced as both its eyes are on one side of its head. The turbot is generous in scale and generous in the gifts of flavour it bestows on the diner. The flesh is intensely white, almost blindingly so.
In Only Yu it comes with ginger and spring onion and a delicious bisque which should be spooned onto the boiled rice, not egg fried rice for this one. Another interesting addition is coriander, which surprisingly didn’t overwhelm the turbot but along with its companions gave the dish a zip and tang which added greatly to the variety of flavour. Not that the turbot really needs it, because the flesh has such a fresh ocean character it scarcely needs any accompaniment.
There’s a choice of cooking; steamed or pan-fried. Don’t be daft with this, it has to be steamed to preserve the excellence of the fish. £49 is a lot of money but remember there’s more than enough of the turbot for two. Treat it like the Chateaubriand of the sea. The name Only Yu obviously put this song by The Platters into our heads.
That would be Only You, of course, which we sang at full volume to our dear friend, Mr 'Big' Turbot, on his platter…well…er plate. The whole restaurant joined in, love and peace spread all around, harmony was the order of the afternoon while outside the sun and the moon danced a jig and reel.
Something like that.
On a separate occasion I went with the scrambled eggs with crab meat and black truffle (£25.80) which really shouldn't have worked but did. The truffle should have wrecked things but the persistence of its flavour was almost delicate, more of a suggestion of truffle. There was loads of crab meat which shouldn't have worked with the eggs either yet did. This was a Frankenstein dish in many ways, ugly as sin, yet effective.
The rice as always in Only Yu was just so.
The steamed scallop with spring onion and garlic (£4.80) was delicious and looked a picture. It came with so much vinegary garlic you could have fought off a legion of vampires and still have more than enough to get rid of a pack of werewolves. Still it was an excellent morsel of a dish. There are lots of excellent morsels such as cuttlefish in XO sauce and charcoal har gow on offer.
I really like Only Yu. I like the energy, the atmosphere, the service and the food. It's on my favourites list now in Chinatown along with Hunan and Mei Dim.
On the way out I stopped and studied the big bass swimming round and round in its tank.
Our hero maitre d said, "He likes you."
I appreciated that. When dining it's nice to have a live fish thinking about you.
Only Yu, First floor, Connaught Bldg, 58 George Street, Manchester M1 4HF
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Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.
Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?
Rice 7, turbot 9, scrambled egg dish 7, scallop 8