Last week, we were invited to try Yuca, a newly opened restaurant at the ground floor of the Venice Grand Canal Mall (Campus Avenue side).
It is the first restaurant from owners Geraldine Mangudadatu and husband Cong. Zahid “Dong” Mangudadatu. Yuca serves Latin American food, inspired by countries in Central and South America.
Geraldine grew up watching Latin telenovelas and fell in love with Latin culture. Having a Latin American restaurant is the closest thing she could do to have it close to home. Yuca is the Spanish name for the cassava. It is native to South America. It is widely cultivated, and is an essential part of the Latin American diet.
The restaurant uses yuca in many of their dishes, in grounded form like flour, or baked as chips. The name Yuca is easy to remember, a factor that helped them choose the name for the restaurant.
Geraldine partnered with Chef RJ Ungco to help with the operations and marketing. I’ve met Chef RJ Ungco from Cafe Enye, and I enjoy the dishes he prepares.
Yuca was still on soft opening, and to make our meal more festive, we had a mariachi band serenading us.
For appetizers, we had the Tio Romy’s Nachos (P250), fried chips from different kinds of root crops like sweet potatoes, cassava, purple potatoes, ube, yams, etc… The dip is what your typical nacho dressing is, except it is plated – cheese sauce, marinara sauce, salsa, onions, corn kernels, some pulled beef, etc… Two of us were able to finish off the entire dish just munching on it while waiting for our next dishes to arrive.
The fried chips are a little tougher than potato chips, but they are less oily and we just couldn’t help munching on them even without adding any dip. I didn’t mind that it was tougher than regular potato chips.
The Pollo Chicharones (P165) is crispy fried chicken skin. These were very crispy, probably too crispy. I found them a bit tough to eat. However, they were not as greasy as I expected when I think of fried chicken skin. If you like fried chicken skin, you’ll probably love this 🙂
Yuca serves their tacos open-faced, so you can see everything in the filling. You can fold it yourself to eat, or have the wait staff do it for you (they volunteered to do it for us and cut it in half for us to share).
Chili Con Taco (P99) – this has a lot of flavors in one bite – there’s chili con carne, beans, corn, salsa, slaw, fried garlic, etc… It is sweet, sour, juicy, soft, crunchy, all in one bite. It’s a good order for a light snack.
El Bigote Taco (P179) – this is a very meaty taco! It has a lot of pulled beef barbacoa, crispy onions, slaw, slices of pickled radish, chimichurri (the green sauce). It’s enough for a light snack, but if you’re hungry, order something more 🙂
Cheesy Con Carne Fugazetta is a new item on the menu, and is the Latin American version of the pizza. Eat it right away because the thin purple yam crust gets soggy quickly. It is topped with some red beans, ground meat, tomatoes, sour cream, corn kernels, onions, cucumber, cheese, etc…
Bistec El Yuca (P667) – if it’s grilled meat you’re after, Yuca has some tender, sliced grilled beef loins topped with chimichurri sauce and crispy basil leaves. The dish is a bit of a carb overload, with a delicious bed of sweet mashed potatoes as well as garlic rice on the plate. I finished the beef and the mashed sweet potatoes. The other sides on the plate are the slaw, some lettuce, and a salty green paste you can add to the beef if you want.
Arroz con Mariscos (P395) – this is a squid-ink seafood rice, their version of paella negra. It was mild and I wanted to ask for more lemon / lime to squeeze over it. I did enjoy the seafood toppings, and the pineapple bits were a burst of sweetness.
They also serve cocktails, and I ordered a Black Russian (Kahlua and Vodka) – sweet coffee flavor and lots of alcohol Oh, wow, I was making an effort not to slump down and sleep after finishing my drink, hahaha. Good thing I wasn’t driving!
They currently have some ongoing promos – DOUBLE TACO TUESDAY and Buy 1 Take 1 on drinks! See details on their Facebook posts below.
I liked the Tio Romy’s Nachos – like, if there’s a bowl of those chips in front of you, you might finish it without even being conscious about eating it, hahaha. I mostly ate the chips without the dip. J liked the Fugazetta and he almost finished the entire thing 🙂
I also liked the Chili con Taco – it’s something I would order for a light snack or while waiting for someone. Instead of waiting at a coffee shop, I could get a snack at Yuca instead.
My favorite dish would probably be the Bistec al Yuca. We missed the desserts so I want to go back and try them.
As for the other dishes, they were good, but mild. Personally I wanted stronger flavors. I think they were shy with the spices. I’d have preferred more raw onions, cumin, lime, cilantro and a little heat (chilies). This is Latin American food, I expected the flavors to be as robust and as passionate as their music.
One thing I liked about Yuca is that every dish is a wonderful melange of different textures.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you! To get the latest updates, please follow me on Facebook and Instagram. xoxo, Karen