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Last modified on August 15th, 2018 at 3:08 pm
After almost a year of work at 625 E. Wetmore Rd. Ste 109, Years Asian Bistro & BBQ announced it will open on Saturday, August 11.
The 2,100 square-foot restaurant seats about 80 with a patio to open in October. Lanterns and cats are the main motifs decorating the hip yet rustic space, which previously housed Regency Beauty Institute. As it turns out, the space was chosen for its location.
“There are two large communities nearby, and the Tucson Mall and the Auto Mall,” said Sophia Li, who owns the restaurant with her husband Xin Ren. “It will be a fun place to drink after work.”
Li finished her master’s degree in management information in Hanover, Germany and moved to Tucson because of Ren, who obtained his PhD of civil engineering at the University of Arizona. While the two fields usually don’t result in restaurateurs, Li’s passion for cooking took priority.
As it turns out, Li’s family runs several restaurants in Northeast China.
“After I moved to Tucson last year, I noticed there were mostly traditional Chinese restaurants,” Li said. “That encouraged me to do something I like. I want the people of Tucson to know the modern style of Asian restaurants. Not just orange beef, broccoli beef, or walnut shrimp.”
The two-page menu will feature those three items as an approachable introduction for picky eaters, however.
“Someone can start with something they’re familiar with, then try something new and think it’s awesome,” Li said. “When friends are at my house, I’ll have both so they can try the new things and like them.”
Although Li and Ren are of Chinese heritage, the menu will feature influences from Japan, Korea, and Europe as well.
“I make the sauce,” Li said. “There will be things like Spanish influence from my time in Europe. Ingredients like olive oil to marinade the meat. I like it olive oil, it tastes really good [laughs].”
The Garlic Butter Baked Mushrooms/Shrimp, inspired from Spain, stands out like a giraffe in an aquarium. The dish is sprinkled with parsley and served with baguette bread. The Cheese Corn, sweet corn baked with mozzarella, is popular in Korea — but this interpretation is actually based off a dish Li had in Spain.
However, the rest of the menu is distinctly Asian with a wide variety of rice dishes, noodle dishes, hot pots, stews, and food meant to pair well with alcoholic beverages.
“There is no skewer barbecue restaurant in town,” Li said. “We’ll be the first one. And the skewers are very good for [eating while drinking] liquor.”
The bar area also features a view of the grill station for guests to watch skewers being grilled. Skewer options range from Chicken Teriyaki to Grilled Rice Ball and Lamb with cumin, sesame, and nut crumbs.
Part of Li’s vision of a modern Asian restaurant embraces the drinking culture, which she thinks tends to be limited in Tucson Chinese restaurants.
Watermelon Eegee’s fans will have a blast with the Watermelon Soju, large enough for two or three people. A half watermelon is filled with Korean soju, crushed watermelon, ice, and other spirits.
For a summer spritzer, order the Umeshu Lemon Soda. Sweet Japanese plum is mixed with lemon and soda for easy drinking.
Sake, beer, wine, tea, coffee, and soda will also be available.
While the skewers and drinking are for weekends and dinners, the restaurant features a daily-changing Years Bento Box during lunch hours Monday through Friday.
Considering the owners’ backgrounds and Li’s enthusiasm, Years is clearly a passion project with an exciting future ahead.
Operating hours will be 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. everyday.
Years Asian Bistro & BBQ is located at 625 E. Wetmore Rd. Ste 109. Keep up with Years Asian Bistro & BBQ on Facebook.