Grilled skewers star at “Years Asian Bistro & BBQ” opening today

August 11, 2018
a man wearing a hat
By Jackie Tran
By Jackie Tran

The former beauty school is now a hip Asian eatery.

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.”

Kimchi Fried Rice at Years Asian Bistro & BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Kimchi Fried Rice at Years Asian Bistro & BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

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.

Korean Fried Chicken at Years Asian Bistro & BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Korean Fried Chicken at Years Asian Bistro & BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

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.

Years Asian Bistro & BBQ Menu Highlights

  • Watermelon Soju ($18.99, serves 2-3) – crushed watermelon mixed with Korean soju, spirits, and ice, served in a watermelon half shell
  • Lamb Skewer ($3.99 for 2 pieces) – lamb shoulder marinated with onion, salt, black pepper, and egg, finished with cumin, sesame, nut crumbs
  • Enoki Mushroom Bacon Wrap Skewer ($3.49 for 2 pieces) – seasoned enoki mushroom wrapped with bacon, finished with black pepper
  • Fried Pork Chops Sandwich ($8.99) – Japanese-style fried pork chops in baked white bread with sliced cabbage
  • Korean Cold Noodle Soup ($9.99) – Korean noodle in cold broth with pear, beef, cucumber, kimchi, half boiled egg
  • Korean Style Fried Chicken ($10.99) – deep fried marinated chicken and potato, glazed with Korean spicy honey soy-garlic sauce
  • Toothpick Lamb ($12.99) – deep-fried marinated lamb meat on toothpick, stir fried with red chili and spices
  • Cumin Trotters ($12.99) – simmered pig feet deep fried in chili oil, sauteed with cumin and garlic
  • House Special Grill Fish ($28.99) – grilled whole tilapia in house special spicy sauce with potato, lotus root, mushroom, celery, and seasonal veggies, served on a hot plate
  • Tom Yum Seafood Hotpot ($16.99 small, $24.99 large) – Thai-style sour and spicy stew with shrimp and squid
  • Matcha Ice Cream with Red Bean ($3.99) – green tea ice cream with red bean paste and waffle

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.

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Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran’s Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...

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