photo credit: Teddy Wolff
As human beings, we are inherently drawn to miniatures. Puppies. Purses. iPod minis (R.I.P.). Certain things are, inexplicably, better when they’re small. This rule also applies to select foods: Cocktail weenies. Mini muffins. Shots of tequila.
Miniature duck a l’orange, however, is not one of those foods. It sounds like something that you might be offered at a fancy wedding (right after your third canapé), which you would eat awkwardly with one hand while wearing an uncomfortable suit. It sounds both cute and pretentious, which is a combination that only works in certain dogs. But there’s nothing pretentious about eating miniature duck a l’orange at Maison Yaki.
From the narrow space and the palm-sized menus to the dishes themselves, everything at this Prospect Heights restaurant is either small or tiny. Maison Yaki is the second spot from the team behind Olmsted, the vegetable-driven American restaurant located right across the street. But here, the food is classic French cooking-inspired yakitori. If that sounds like a euphemism for “overpriced and leaving hungry,” we understand - but you should definitely give this place a shot.
Nothing at Maison Yaki costs more than $9. The prices, along with the skewer-heavy menu, might make you think this is a pre-dinner spot, but it’s at its best when you treat it like the main event. There are 12 different skewers - ranging from spring leek with Vichyssoise to ribeye with Bordelaise to lamb leg with herbes de Provence - and you can feel confident ordering any (or all) of them. Whether your favorite ends up being the scallop in a citrusy, rich Maltaise, or the lobster with sauce Américain, Maison Yaki will turn you into the kind of person who says, “I’ll take another round of lobster.” And don’t skip out on the non-skewer items - like the salmon tartare, beef tongue sandwich, and pommes dauphine (a cross between a tater tot and a mashed potato) - which are some of the best things here.
The flavors at Maison Yaki may remind you of white-tablecloth restaurants, but everything about the setting is relaxed. The skewer of duck a l’orange gives you the distinct sensation that an entire duck has been shrunk down, so that everything good about this classic French dish has been distilled into four bites - that you’ll enjoy on a red leather bar seat. The king trumpet mushrooms (the best of the vegetable skewers) are grown in blue-lit hydroponic glass boxes above the bar - but if you want, you can eat them outside on the little back patio. Come after 10pm, and there’s a special late-night menu that feels designed to be paired with drinking.
Speaking of which, our biggest complaint about Maison Yaki is their wine selection, which is limited in both length and variety. So stick with the cocktails - the yuzu gin & tonic, the tarragon margarita, and the vesper martini are about three-quarters the size and price of a typical NYC restaurant cocktail. Plus, like the duck a l’orange or lobster or ribeye, mini martinis just mean more martinis. Which helps explain why you can leave Maison Yaki having had a lot of fun - and also extremely full.
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Baguette & Yuzukosho Butter
Fresh bread, tangy butter. Start your meal here.
Salmon Mimosa Tartare
Despite the unfortunate fact that there isn’t any champagne in this mimosa tartare, it’s one of the best things on the menu. As you mix the ingredients together, the salmon, scallions, onions, egg yolk, and fried capers become a truly excellent dip situation.
Duck Rillettes & Wasabi
Rich and spicy, this little pot of duck rillettes is a great thing to have on the table to snack on between skewers.
Cauliflower Okonomiyaki & Hazelnuts
We like this cauliflower-based Japanese pancake, but there are better, more flavorful things at Maison Yaki.
Tempura Frog Legs Provencal
Delicate meat, crispy batter, and a much more exciting way to spend $7 than your daily oat milk matcha latte.
Beef Tongue Sando & Gribiche
This almost-normal-sized sandwich doesn’t really make sense on a menu that’s otherwise full of small things. But instead of being an outcast, it’s a star - with a fried patty of chopped beef tongue, creamy gribiche (a creamy egg sauce), and sweet tonkatsu sauce.
King Trumpet Mushroom Á La Grecque
Maison Yaki grows these mushrooms in blue-lit cases above the bar, and it turns out that’s an excellent place to grow mushrooms. This is our favorite vegetable skewer.
Duck A L’Orange
This dish turns duck a l’orange from something you typically eat under a chandelier to something you could, theoretically, eat walking down the street. Dip, bite, repeat.
Little, fluffy, fried balls of potato. There should always be an order of these on the table.
Lamb Leg & Herbes de Provence
Simple and excellent. Given how expensive lamb can get in restaurants, having an entire skewer to yourself for $7 feels powerful.
Ribeye & Bordelaise
Tender red meat in a classic, red-wine-based French sauce. Yep, you want this.
Scallops & Sauce Maltaise
You only get one skewer to an order of these - and you should not share it. This is one of the best ones on the menu.
Lobster & Sauce Américaine
If you aren’t thrilled by the idea of ordering repeat rounds of lobster, we have nothing in common.