If there’s one thing to be said about Yuka’s in Croton, it’s that the restaurant seems to always be busy. In retrospect, I’m not sure if that’s because of how the parking lot is situated- right along the Route 9 roadway, a bit above street level, maybe a hint too small for the restaurant’s size. Either way, it seems like the place always draws a crowd.
After years of driving by this spot, we finally decided to try it out on a recent weekend evening. It was early, and though the sun had not yet set, the eatery was decidedly dark. Lights, where they were actually on, were dimmed almost completely. We were given a two-person table near the center of the main dining area, away from any of the large windows that line most of the restaurant. I quickly asked if we could be seating near one of those windows, perhaps in a mostly-empty dining area that let in much more natural light. I was told all tables were reserved (and they probably were, but I feel like I have to point out that they remained empty during our hour-long dinner), but we were swiftly moved to another table near the windows overlooking the small outdoor patio.
Our server was quick, friendly and extremely accommodating. I ordered a rose (because I’m basic and boring), and John got a jalapeño ginger margarita. Served in an oversized glass with a salted rim, the drink was not only beautiful, but perfectly spicy.
I also enjoyed that chips were served with not just regular salsa, but also a black bean dip. Both weren’t quite spicy enough for my liking, but I enjoyed the variety. And we definitely went through two helpings of chips.
Bluepoint oysters are flash-fried and battered in our appetizer selection, topped with a plantain-saffron aioli and sofrito. As would become a trend for the rest of our meal, the dish just seemed to miss the mark for me, and there seemed to be a bit too much going on.
Pulled chicken tacos (three for $10.99) were topped with avocado, jalapeños, pico de gallo and a poblano ranch. The chicken was tasty, but in an area saturated with Mexican street tacos, these didn’t do much to stand out from the crowd.
I ordered the Cuban-style meatloaf, which came topped in a layer of Monterey Jack cheese. While the yuka mash was tasty, and I am always a fan of fried plantains, the creamy spinach lacked flavor and the meat mixture was so salty it was nearly inedible.
The restaurant gets point from my for presentation. They definitely go all out for the dishes they serve, and while some might not be exactly my style (the plantain sicking up from my meatloaf was a bit confusing), I give props for effort.
I want to reiterate that aside from the salty meatloaf, there was nothing inherently wrong with our dinner. And I have to be honest, I feel as though the stellar service balanced out that miss for me. But everything was just fine. The decor was fine, the food was fine.
For two drinks, an appetizer and two entrees, our bill came out to around $80 with tip. While looking back, there’s nothing on the menu that seems outrageously priced, it felt like a lot. An $8 total for three oysters had me re-checking the prices of one of my favorite oyster dishes in Westchester: the Oysters Beacon from Station House in Port Chester. And while $14 for five oysters during that dinner had me licking my lips, planning out my next visit, the oysters from Yuka’s left me scratching my head, wondering if it was actually worth the price.
VERDICT: It will work for dinner in a pinch, or for a delicious cocktail.
Yuka’s Latin Fusion
2011 Albany Post Road
Croton-on-Hudson, New York
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11:30 am to 10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to midnight