Power couple Joe and Laura Kim’s new Korean restaurant, Yoli, feels like a breath of fresh air.
Joe is the former chef and Laura the former front of house manager at 5 Fusion and Sushi Bar. After 12 years and three James Beard nominations, Joe made a move to embrace his Korean American heritage with Yoli — a name that means “cuisine” in Korean.
The intimate, 10-table restaurant has already created a buzz in Bend, so it’s best to call ahead or make a reservation.
When I stopped by midweek for lunch last week at 12:30 p.m., all the tables were full. Luckily, although the next opening wasn’t until 1:15 p.m., it was only 30 minutes before I was sitting at a table.
I chose to order the set lunch with kalbi, a grilled marinated short rib. Each set lunch comes with a choice of protein, a bowl of rice, three preselected banchan (side dishes) and kimchi soup or salad.
The set lunch is beautifully plated on a wood tray with each component of the dish plated in its own vessel. The rice was kept warm in a metal bowl with a lid. The kalbi was dotted with sesame seeds, and the three banchan portioned out on a metal tray with three pockets.
The short rib was delectably tender. It tasted slightly sweet and the marbling in the meat amped up the juiciness. The rice was cooked to perfection. I paired bites of the short rib with rice and the banchan, which were served cold and cooked al dente. The sides consisted of broccoli, black soybeans and kimchi.
While on the spicy side, the kimchi soup was a bowl of comfort. It was mostly broth and made with green onions and a few pieces of tofu.
To drink, I ordered a chamomile tea. It was served in a sleek, yellow cast iron teapot with a bamboo lid. Not only was it a pleasing design, but it kept the tea warm as I enjoyed my meal.
I was both greeted and served by Laura, who expertly attended to the lunch rush by flitting from the hostess stand to the tables, the kitchen and back.
While I’m not familiar with Korean cuisine and felt a little out of my element, Laura kindly pointed me in the right direction, making every part of my experience a positive one.
The excitement in the air was palpable. As I sat on the benches waiting for a table, I was joined by others who were excited to try the new restaurant.
The decor was trendy. Strips of natural wood and gold-stenciled flowers decorated the walls.
A translucent covering over the windows separated Yoli from bustling Newport Avenue.
Location: 1133 NW Wall St., #100, Bend
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-8:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Price Range: $12-$30