いらっしゃい!
...an expat libertine with a penchant for sparkly dining partners, jazz bars and izakaya.
Opinions here expressed are not necessarily shared by any with whom I associate. Fault for errors and any offense caused is entirely my own.
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Entries in Yakitori (10)

Monday
Jan282013

Torimasa, Minami Aoyama  鳥政、南青山

Torimasa joins our little pantheon of yakitori-ya, coming in at the “high-end” if that’s appropriate for yakitori. Actually, I’ve only done lunch there, which was excellent, although I have it on good authority that evening meals are also of a superior quality.

Tucked away on a narrow side street off Aoyama Dōri, not far from Omotesando crossing, a block or two before Franc Franc, Torimasa is a small yakitori-ya, that’s been in business for three decades.

Its popular, so queuing at lunchtime is not unknown. Once inside, the place seats about two dozen – at a push – with counter, table and tatami seating available.

The atmosphere is pleasant, although not exactly lively, and the interior simple, clean and nicely “shibui.” It’s also possible to spot the occasional TV/ movie celeb’ lunching there, too.

Taking a counter seat is recommended, from where you can admire the glass case stuffed with waiting-to-be-grilled yakitori. Each skewer of which is excellent; fresh, huge, tender, juicy and (most importantly) utterly delicious, the speciality of the house being succulent Nagaoya cochin chicken, generous portions and a nicely balanced tare sauce. 

The master of the house, a portly gent usually to be found perched at the counter of a lunchtime, is friendly and has enough English to make non-Japanese speaking guests feels welcome, and even provide a comparative analysis of British and West German ladies-of-the-night during the 1970s. The master also wistfully explained that he’d had to take skewers of foie gras off the menu, as suppliers simply can’t source the stuff large enough anymore.

The lunchtime menu consists of two sets (donburi and rāmen) and the teishoku, all for ¥1,300.

The donburi set is more than most can manage, being comprised of a gargantuan bowl of rice toped with four or five skewers of chunky, tender chicken morsels (the liver being particularly good), pickles and soup. The rāmen set provides a full bowl of noodles in broth, a mini version of the aforementioned donburi and pickles, too. Finally, the teishoku offers soup, rice pickles and the same yakitori skewers that adorn the donburi.

Dinners come in full- or half-set courses, both of which I’m eager to try.

This is yakitori at its best – perhaps even better than that at Kushiwakamaru (although with a less expansive menu), although far less friendly on the purse than Katoriya.

 

03-3405-4515

Torimasa

Wednesday
Mar212012

Heisaku, Mizuhodai  平作、みずほ台

Better known for its soba and udon noodles, Heisaku (about 5 minutes from Mizuhodai station, on the Tobu-Tojo line) is actually a reasonable izakaya providing a distinct Showa era flavour and generous portions.

Spread across two spacious tatami floors, tables are low, and seating in the form of cushions upon the mats – prolonged sessions can result in discomfort.

The décor is hardly noteworthy, but this izakaya isn’t trying to score points for style.

Popular with locals, Heisaku is not only a venue for a casual dinner or drinking session, but seems also to be favoured for company parties, wakes and other formal gatherings.

The broad menu and generally good quality of food, however, do deserve praise.

Aside from the delicious noodles, the sashimi, simmered fish, tempura and yakitori are all satisfying – the yakitori in particular stands out for its size and rich tare sauce.

The tempura, the huge shrimps in particular, is excellent, although the batter is of a heavier, darker, oilier variety than encountered at more refined tempura restaurants, such as Tsunahachi.

Yariika gesso sashi

Tsukemono

Sashimi - maguro, aji, tai

Udon

Soba

Shirauo no karaage

Sashimi moriawase

Tempura moriawase – shrimp, mushrooms, peppers, aubergine

Negima – tare

Negima – shio

Norwegian salmon steamed with mushrooms 

Soba – kimono jiru

Yaki ika

Tofu salad

Ice cream

 

049-252-0110

Heisaku

Wednesday
Nov022011

Toritetsu, Tokiwadai  とり鉄、常盤台

For some reason I’d got it into my head that Toritetsu was a local affair. Actually it’s a sprawling chain covering much of the archipelago. It seems somehow less formulaic than many of the better known, much reviled chains that spring to mind. 

On the night my dining partner and I ventured in, it was packed. “Must be good,” said I. Turns out that the crowd had gathered to take advantage of an “everything for ¥100 night,” the menu’s specials included.  

Truth be told, Toritestu does a lot of “special” nights. There’s ladies’ night, men’s night, pensioners’ night, Thursday night, Friday night, etc. You get the picture. 

Bubbly staff and a cozy atmosphere went a long way to making the evening an enjoyable one, despite the length of time between orders placed and orders served... 

The food - for the most part yakitori standards - isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s not going to put you off the stuff either. I should know. After a month or so of almost nothing but yakitori I should be sick of the stuff. 

The otoshi, a very soft, creamy dollop of tofu, was quite tasty but almost impossible to eat with chopsticks. On the verge of punching someone after five minutes with it, spoons seemed in order.  

Many of the skewered morsels were on the teeny side. The ginko nuts especially so. The liver was tender, but pretty tasteless, too.

As far as budget yakitori goes, the sasami - plum and wasabi-topped - wasn’t bad. The tsukune was reasonable, and the slices of raw chicken flesh safe but a little bland. 

Better than Watami, not a patch on Kappa-chan.

 

03-5917-6808

http://tori-tetsu.com/

 

 

Monday
May022011

Jidori-ya, Nakano  ぢどり屋,中野

That Nakano has plenty to offer besides the otaku “delights” of Mandrake is well known, especially to those who enjoy izakaya. Out of the station's north exit, the labyrinthine area sandwiched between the Sun Mall shōtengai and the Fureai Road is home to a bewildering – and of late changing – array of izakaya and bars of various persuasions. 

Jidori-ya (spelt with a ぢ) is a little place specializing in simple free-range chicken izakaya fare and other classics reminiscent of much that is nowadays touted as cuisine peculiar to Miyazaki-ken.

Prices are reasonable; beer, Hoppy and cheap shōchū plentiful, and the service friendly, informative and a little over-concerned...

“Can the honourable foreigner eat chewy chicken?” Yes, he could, and so too could his honourably indigenous dining partner. So it was that we tucked into an admittedly chewy, but thoroughly delicious dish of firm, charcoal grilled momoniku. The smoky flavour rich enough to be interesting, without becoming burdensome. In fact, as we lingered over this and other dishes, it was quite delicious even after becoming cold.

The potato salad was poor, which is to say sloppy – the easy way out is always to rely on the mayonnaise too much. Certainly not as good as the perfectly humble variety served at Isukura. The edamame, too, failed to impress.

The interior was fun though. Packed up front (the space is L-shaped), we’d entered because the crowded counter and side tables suggested that either the food was at least okay, or the prices were very, very cheap; or perhaps a nice combination of the two. The mix of simple tables, 1950s (?) television set and a kind of tobacco/ sweet shop façade seemingly rescued from the set of Always added to the neighborhood Shōwa feel of the place.

There was nothing tired or musty about the gyūreba teki however. Again, the staff were concerned about the esteemed visitor’s ability to eat liver, let alone raw liver – from a cow of all things – but such niggles aside it tasted great. Both the sesame oil and grated ginger complimented the dish perfectly. The potato wedges went down a treat, as they tend to after being silly with the beer. 

 

03-33887447

http://r.gnavi.co.jp/b089200/

Friday
Mar182011

Genki-ya, Ikebukuro  げんき屋、池袋

A fortnight ago the deadly convulsions of mythological Namazu, the capricious catfish residing beneath this archipelago, were an issue far less pressing than the tribulations of a train home delayed by suicide.

Stranded in Ikebukuro station – chilly, surrounded by fed up commuters and with no way of knowing how long it would take for the tracks to be cleared – I gave in to hunger and convinced my similarly stranded dining partner to join me somewhere nearby for dinner. 

We plumped for Genki-ya, a little place situated on the East/ Seibu side of Ikebukuro on the way to the Sunshine 60 Building, due to all the descriptive menu pages and photographs plastered all over the street level entrance to this basement izakaya.

Neither interior nor food was noteworthy. A narrow space, filled with the usual worn wood table and benches, with tired beer posters for decoration. The young lady waiting the floor discharged herself admirably, considering the limited space and lack of customers.

Our meal served its purpose; it kept us off the platform/ streets and filled us up. Not bad, certainly not stooping to lower-end chain store levels, but hardly refined. Prices were reasonable, but not to the extent of Yukari

The award for most interesting dish/ flavour of the evening surely went to the sun-dried firefly squid, which despite resembling aging umbilical cords or Rabbi’s cuttings tasted really good, pungent almost, especially when dipped in cheap mayonnaise (as is traditional in these parts). The karaage and yakitori moriawase deserved no awards, but won’t get the chef in any trouble either. 

 

03-6907-4120

http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1305/A130501/13053038/

Wednesday
Jun232010

Yakitori Tetsu, Shibuya  焼き鳥テツ、渋谷

Yakitori Tetsu is cheap and convenient. Being located near Shibuya station’s Hachiko exit, at the side of Mark City and a block away from American, it’s useful when in need of a quick drink or bite to eat when the heavens are pouring or better places a full.

Not a large yakitori-ya, so few are, the atmosphere is often cosy and the service is for the most part friendly. One member of staff in particular provides recommendations from the menu (posted upon the walls) and sage advice on all manner of things ranging from chicken wombs to football, all in excellent English. This half-Japanese charmer was revealed to me when at the time of my first visit I ordered “tori reba” (chicken liver) to which he replied “tori liver ne,” pronouncing the V perfectly.  Surprised, I asked if he spoke English. Turns out he lived in London for a couple of years. Nice guy. Nice Vs.

Décor is simple. Square counter around open kitchen, a few tables and stools. Somewhat industrial and sparse looking. For the most part clean. Customers are a good mix of young and old, sharp and dowdy. The staff are young and hip in a counter-culture should have been a NEET manner.

It’s cheap, very. But in a way that ends up being not such a great deal. Drinks, draft beer, umeshu, shochu and wine are at usual prices, but the yakitori is for the most part all ¥120 a piece. Trouble is that’s for just one small, shrivelled looking serving (see photos). Yep, one stick (and not a long one either).

The range of yakitori classics on offer is good; for the most part you’ll not be disappointed or surprised. It’s all rather average. Tastes okay, but fails to inspire. The karaage is not so bad, but this costs around ¥500, rather than the ¥120 most that most other dishes do.

Of note is the half-formed chicken egg with the womb still attached. Looks disgusting, alien even, but tastes okay if you close your eyes. That said I’m not sure I’d ever want to have it again.

Good for a drink, with tiny yakitori nibbles as a snack rather than a meal.

 

Tel: 03-3462-7262

Friday
May072010

Kushiwakamaru, Nakameguro  串若丸、中目黒

Most people enjoy yakitori. Most people know Nakameguro’s Kushiwakamaru. If you’re the poor soul who has yet to sample its delights, you have my pity. Kushiwaka’ has been around for a while, a couple of decades at least from what I can gather, and seems to have been highly regarded all along. 

Considering that Nakameguro is famous for yakitori (or so I’m told), there’s some stiff competition in the area, such as the somewhat more “upmarket” take on the genre offered at Akira. Nevertheless, Kushiwakamaru continues to draw huge crowds, resulting in long queues everyday of the week – rain or shine.

This popularity is also one of Kushiwaka’s drawbacks. It’s often extremely difficult to get in the place, especially on weekday evenings if you’re heading there after the office. You can make a reservation up until 7pm (after which your only option is to get in line with the other hopefuls milling around outside), but this then imposes a two hour limit on your visit which, if you are interested in drink just as much as kushiyaki, is a pain. Furthermore, if you arrive late you will find your reservation has been cancelled.

If you go early, i.e., at 5pm, it’s possible to grab a seat and settle in. You’d be well advised to, as you’ll enjoy your stay. Immensely. Should you end up having to queue, then at least the good people running the show have the decency to serve beer to those awaiting admittance.

Once inside, you’ll be greeted by a fairly simple interior. Lots of basic looking wooden tables, chairs and screens. U-shaped wooden counter around the kitchen, coat stands, beer posters and white strips of paper bearing the names of available dishes. The down to earth, “local” feel is half the charm, the half being the food, of course. I’ve read somewhere that the basic interior renders Kushiwaka’ less than suitable for a date. Well, perhaps it’s not the best venue for a first date, but it’s certainly more than good enough for subsequent romantic liaisons. Besides, do you really want to be dating someone that doesn’t enjoy food as good as this?

The menu, providing both Japanese and English listings, offers up a huge variety of yakitori and kushiyaki (tasty morsels, grilled on little wooden skewers), ranging from staples such as chicken liver, skin, breast and gizzard, to peppers stuffed with cheese (awesome), bacon-wrapped tomatoes (more awesome!) and even oysters when in season. Drinks are fairly plentiful, teas, sours for the ladies, some shochu and big frothy daijoki beer at ¥800. Kushiwaka’ is not, however, a place to indulge a passion for sake (sorry guys…).

The food itself is a straightforward, uncomplicated affair. Fairly large portions, fresh, succulent and shiny, almost as if it’s been sprayed with that stuff Pizza Hut cover their “pizzas” in. The simplicity of the food is its strong point. It’s easy to sample a wide selection of kushiyaki and yakitori, which all have a suitably robust home cooking look, and are quite simply very, very tasty. So much so, that you’ll find it hard to stop ordering, and indeed reordering.

The oshinko moriawase is workman-like. Crunchy, tastes okay, but nothing special. As noted earlier, the bacon wrapped tomatoes are divine, being perfectly juicy and the bacon not too salty. Be warned, when just served they can be hot, creating a napalm effect as the tomato explodes in your mouth. The liver too is excellent, melt-in-the-mouth tender, and not overcooked. The tsukune and chicken and leak are recommended, although there’s nothing exciting about them. Just simple, delicious yakitori standards.

A truly outstanding dish is the bacon-wrapped green peppers stuffed with cheese. The combination of the three is heavenly, and they look fantastic. So too with some of the “specials,” such as the wasabi chicken momo, or the plum sauce and basil topped variations. Basil-wrapped tsukune also provide a nice take on an old favourite. Mushrooms are always a good idea, and at Kushiwaka’ they come stuffed with minced chicken, tsukune-style, which makes them an even better idea than usual.

The nankotsu is good, or so I am told. Although as I can’t abide the stuff, we’ll just have take the word of my dining partners on this one. When available, the grilled oysters have always been good, of a decent size, juicy and the taste not too overpowering. I always like the ginko nuts, just nicely bitter, while the erengi, although okay, are sometimes too rubbery for my liking.

One problem that arises from all this great food is that it’s often hard to try it all. Certainly impossible in one sitting, but even on subsequent visits I find myself ordering the same wonderful dishes as always. It’s just so damned good.

The atmosphere is rather lively, a little crowded, and friendly overall. Not too noisy, you can still enjoy conversation without having to yell at your interlocutor. The service is fairly good overall. Not the best perhaps, but I’d put this down to the staff being very busy taking orders and serving plate after plate with little time for smiles or providing for your comfort at a more leisurely pace. I always get the impression that their level of friendliness increases the more you order. So for most parties, you’ll probably end up with extremely good service.

To top it all off, Kushiwakamaru is exceptional value for money, both on the food and drink fronts. You can take your fill of both, until you can take no more, for less than ¥4,000.

What are you waiting for?

 

Tel: 03-3715-9292