Judd Goodman is a veteran in the region’s restaurant industry. In recent years, you may have wandered into one of his Federal Taphouse locations in downtown Harrisburg or State College.
And while he has worked to build a solid reputation in the food and beverage world, Goodman is never one to rest on his past successes.
Last year, as the pandemic forced pivots and modifications for most restaurants and bars, he looked around Harrisburg and started thinking about how he could help address an unmet need in the market.
“I started working to come up with something that has mass appeal but is still fairly niche,” he explained.
And from there, it wasn’t long before he took notice of the absence of a sushi restaurant in Midtown.
The perfect location soon appeared in the form of a historic storefront at the corner of 3rd and Herr streets. Joined by chef Alex Coenen, who learned to make sushi while working at a restaurant in New York, Goodman recently opened the doors of Sushi Yatta, a unique sushi establishment that features a streamlined to-go format.
Goodman believes convenience and expediency help set Sushi Yatta apart.
“You just order online and, in 15 or 20 minutes, we’ll have your food ready for you,” he said.
As Coenen worked to develop Sushi Yatta’s menu, he did so with an eye toward creating a blend of the traditional and the unexpected to ensure selections that were both tasty and accessible. For the holdouts out there who still think raw fish is for the birds, Sushi Yatta offers a number of signature offerings that just might reel you in.
So if you’re curious but aren’t sure where to start, Coenen recommends the surf and turf roll, which features steak, lobster, spicy crab and asparagus, topped with tobiko, wasabi aioli and unagi sauce.
“It’s just top notch,” he noted, smiling.
Coenen’s recommendation for seasoned sushi fans interested in trying something new?
“The haystack roll is just really, really good—my favorite by far,” he said. “It has lobster, shrimp tempura, crunchy potatoes, asparagus and avocado, topped with spicy mayonnaise, unagi sauce and scallions.”
Rounding out this flavor adventure, Sushi Yatta’s menu also presents a wide selection of more traditional offerings, like California and Alaska rolls, and nigiri and sashimi. In addition to sides and appetizers like pork, shrimp or vegetable dumplings, patrons can choose from a selection of fish, meat or vegetarian-focused bowls. Bento boxes offer yet another hearty option, complete with a choice of a protein paired with sides of soup, salad and rice.
For a firsthand take on Sushi Yatta’s many offerings, I tried the tuna poke roll, which is Coenen’s sushi version of Hawaii’s beloved poke bowl: spicy tuna, asparagus, avocado with marinated onion, jalapeño, toasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of ponzu. The spicy tuna was delicious, and the marinated onion gave the dish a rich, savory flavor and unexpected, complex texture. I also tried the more classic salmon nigiri, which featured tasty, sunset-hued slices of salmon over generous portions of rice.
Even though Sushi Yatta is in its early days, you don’t have to look far to find people who love it. Harrisburg resident Susan Ewing-Rathfon shared that she and her family are already big fans.
“We love sushi, and every experience we’ve had there so far has been impeccable,” she said.
Ewing-Rathfon called out the restaurant’s takeout and delivery options as selling points, as well as their delicious bowls, rolls and desserts.
“It’s the perfect option for our family and for date nights,” she said.
Speaking of families, kids are likely to be drawn to Sushi Yatta’s frushi creations, which feature fresh strawberry, mango and kiwi wrapped in coconut milk-infused rice and topped with crushed pistachios, toasted coconut and raspberry sauce. Coenen noted that it has already exceeded their expectations in terms of interest.
“I didn’t anticipate it to be one of our signatures, but it’s beautiful and delicious,” he said.
To further entice your sweet tooth, Sushi Yatta has a number of mochi selections, including green tea, chocolate and strawberry.
It’s never too early to start planning for the holidays, right? So Sushi Yatta’s current and future fans should keep in mind that the restaurant offers bespoke catering options, perfect for small, in-home gatherings or larger scale events.
Staff will work with you to develop a menu based around their signature offerings and scaled to the event size. Catering customers can even bring in their own platters, which not only cuts down on single-use plastic, but streamlines the process for an event. So, there’s no need to carefully transfer the artfully prepared sushi.
Looking ahead, Goodman anticipates expanding Sushi Yatta’s hours and introducing some fun, unexpected details.
“We’ll be adding a bit of a marketplace in the front of the store to feature some signature grab-and-go items, small plates, chopsticks and some branded merchandise,” he said.
Sushi Yatta is located at 1100 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, call 717-980-5160 or visit www.sushiyatta.com.
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