Yakitori, is best referred to as chicken grilled and served on sticks. A popular type of food to accompany drinking and dining with friends. The word has grown to include anything grilled and pierced with a skewer; which includes vegetables, as well as other types of meat and seafood.
This would be another authentic Japanese dinner thanks to friends living in the city of Nanako. This restaurant was in a tower on the third floor, one of those places you need to know where you going, to know to look up.
On this cold night, the warmth of the place was inviting. The humidifier sounded, the smell of cigarette smoke filled your nostrils, and the laughter of the room set the tone. As in most places, the employees welcome you in with a roar. We were directed to a room divided by a permeable bamboo drape. It housed two tables of four. The wooden divide created space, despite the table’s close proximity and encased room. Each table was set with all that you would need: ash trays, tooth picks, soy sauce, napkins, salt, Japanese all spice, and a small slender vase to store all your used skewers in.
We watched the employees, indicated by their shirts with the restaurant’s name stencilled on their backs, scurry back and forth. They looked frantic from our view of the kitchen. It explained why it was so hard to get a hold of one each time we needed another beer. We began our meal, like most with a hot towel. This seems a commonplace practice for sit down restaurants, serving dishes that would required you to use your hands to eat. Tonight I found these hot towels a blessing to hold with cold hands.
We left the ordering to our host’s discretion, as such, I cannot be sure of all that we had and their proper names. What is listed by my best guess from taste and appearance.
A bamboo woven dish of warm tofu was served as a complimentary start. There wasn’t much flavour, it was just regular tofu. I assume this is the equivalent of Canadian bread and butter to start?
Boiled Quail’s egg. Each egg is boiled in shell, in a seasoned sauce to obtain its brown hue and salty flavour.
Creamy avocado. Ripen avocado dressed in a sweet brown sauce and sweet Japanese mayo. It was soft like pudding and easy to eat, but every bite felt like it was missing something. A base, a crunch, something to actually smear the avocado on.
Raw chicken on salt block. This was a new one for me. I didn’t even know you could eat chicken raw. What about salmonella? If you can get past the look of its gummy texture, the texture is tolerable. The meat is unseasoned, you rub each piece on the block of salt that it is displayed on before bringing it to your mouth.
Yakitori platter, in no particular order: peppers, mushroom, various dark chicken meat, chicken parts mashed into a hamburger-like consistency, chicken stomach, liver, chicken skin, and a fatty piece of cartilage. You basically choose a stick and commit to eating all that is on it. We played it safe with the meaty portions and left the organs and the unknown to our host. Smokey, with a nice char flavoured, but not very filling.
The steak is served rare and was still a little bloody. The decorative greens at the bottom helped to soak some of the red up. It looked better and tasted better than its texture. It was a vert chewy and fatty piece of beef.
Chicken cooked on a cast iron hot plate. Served with lettuce leaves and soy and chilli sauce for dipping. The presentation was impressive as it continued to sizzle our table. The pieces of chicken were tender and the portions that got additional time to cook were extra crispy.
Four types of wings, served i four portions of three. Each plate was seasoned thoroughly in Japanese all spice and barbecue flavourings. The first bite was best, as you broke through crispy skin and had clear juices running down your chin. Inside it appeared that each wing was stuffed. Our host explained that they remove the meat, mash it into a paste with green onion, and then stuff everything back in for these thick looking wings.
Deep fried soft shell crab. In my opinion, this was the best dish of the night. A great finger food, enjoyed with chopsticks. Some thing you can easily pop into your mouth between conversations. Each little crab was crispy like a chip and tasted like shrimp. When we were done, what was left was a bowl of lost limbs, legs fallen off from fragile bodies.
And as is the case with many tapas/izakayas, a type of Japanese drinking establishment that serves food to accompany drinks; the washrooms were well equipped for your after meal needs. They went all out with oil blotting sheets, gauze sheets, cotton swabs, tooth picks, and individual pots of mouth wash.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I liked the setting, this is definitely a great place to unwind at after work. But as is the case with most of these authentic establishments, if you are not a local, it is hard to enjoy without a guide hosting. Aa you can see some of what we had was pretty out there for Canadian standards, and most were things we wouldn’t even think of trying, let alone actual order. Don’t deny your cravings.