Featured photo: Owner Tal Blevins sits in front of the kitchen and bar at Yokai while Chef Kevin Cottrell cooks behind the counter. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

By the time friends and family filled the once nondescript brick building off of Greene Street in downtown Greensboro on a recent Thursday evening, the space had been completely transformed.

The red brick had been painted a slick black and the tin roof that covered the patio a stark yellow. On the front window next to the entrance, a neon axolotl-like creature slurped noodles out of a bowl.

Soon, the public will get to feast at Yokai, the new Asian-concept restaurant started by owner Tal Blevins and head chef Kevin Cottrell. The two are a known quantity in the Greensboro dining scene for their collaboration on Machete, the area’s fine dining restaurant that earned itself a James Beard semi-finalist nomination for Best New Restaurant in 2022.

The exterior of Yokai (courtesy photo)

And while Machete patrons are used to intentionally created small plates, those who visit Yokai will be in for a different experience.

“Yokai was inspired by my many trip to Japan and Korea when I was a tech journalist, and Chef Kevin’s love for Asian food and flavors,” Blevins told TCB.

During its friends-and-family event last week, the kitchen rolled out a limited menu full of casual and street eats like Korean friend chicken, kimchi tater tots, Japanese okonomiyaki and ramen.

While the inspiration is taken from countries like Japan and Korean, Blevins told TCB that Yokai’s menu is meant to be a playful take on many popular dishes, not necessarily a textbook reproduction.

“We get inspiration from casual bar and street food you might see in Japan, Korea and other parts of Asia, but we’re putting our own fun spin on things like our kimchi queso tater tots, Hidden Valley ranch edamame and Philly chicken cheesesteak fried rice,” Blevins said.

In addition to its food menu, Yokai, which refers to Japanese spirits, will have a full cocktail menu and bar to fill out its izakaya-style concept.

After months of planning, Blevins says he’s excited to open their doors.

“We can’t wait to share Yokai with everyone in Greensboro soon,” he said.

The restaurant will celebrate its grand opening on Sept. 12.

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