Yajai opened their doors to business during the fall of 2002, and have seen a steadily rising patron base keep them afloat during their crucial first year. Though the seating area may sometimes look empty, rest assured that the staff is kept busy most days with a steady flow of takeout or delivery orders.
The dining area at Yajai is somewhat minimal, with glass-topped tables sporting purple tablecloths, atop a tiled floor. The main centerpiece of this area is the colorful mural on the main wall that was hand painted by various staff members a month or so after opening. Though I try to shy away from describing anything as "kitsch", that's just what I think of when gazing at it (you can judge for yourself from the picture below). At capacity, the dining area could probably hold around 50 people, but you needn't worry about getting a table. There's always at least one open.
Service here at Yajai is impeccable. Each and every time I've either sat down to eat, or picked up a to go dinner, the staff has greeted me with a jovial smile and positive attitude. It's obvious that they truly appreciate your patronage, which in turn makes me want to come back again.
But of course, great service and a comfortable seating area would mean diddily squat if the food was awful. Luckily, that's not the case here. All the dishes are served in heaping portions and contain just the right amount of spice to rev up your heart a notch or two. Keep in mind that I'm a vegetarian, so I have not sampled any of the meat dishes, but I would assume the quality of the meals I've eaten would extend to the carnivorous variety.
First, don't come here without sampling the Pad Thai with tofu. For $6.95, you are given a monstrous plate of stir-fried rice noodles mixed with egg, tofu, bean sprouts, and a thick, delectable peanut sauce. Don't be surprised when the tofu arrives in large triangles - one plate could easily be split between two people, as long as you're not the world's biggest glutton. Compliment your pad thai with some fried tofu, served with a spicy sauce, or a thai salad topped with spicy peanut dressing.
Most dishes on the menu can be had for under $10, including Yajai's vast assortment of curries, soups, and specialty dishes. There's plenty to choose from whether you're a meat eater or not.
If you're on your way out to MoMA during the afternoon, stop by to take advantage of their lunch menu for combos under $5.50 that include an entree and choice of soup or soda. You can't beat that deal with a bat.
by Mr. Wonka
Brooklyn, New York
February 2, 2003
From journal Let me tell you A-stor-ia 'bout my neighborhood