My favorite “entertainment” in Japan would definitely have to be food. Next to eating great sushi, YAKITORI restaurants would have to be 2nd favorite. This is one of my favorite yakitori places in Japan. They spread out all the food on basket woven dishes. Some of it is already skewered, and then to the right you can see they’ve stocked a fish tank with large shrimp and abalone. Again, these pictures were shot with my iphone, the quality is offensive but bear with me.
So the front of the restaurant is sort of the MENU. Its a “live” menu, as I said, with all the food they are going to grill for you. You, as the customer, can pick out what you want to eat. There are no tables here, everyone sits around the bar, surrounding the vast area of raw food in baskets.
Random white dude sitting alone to the right . He was really really cute. Like who was he? Dressed super clean and preppy, my favorite style for when it comes to guys, of course I never attract guys like this because I DRESS like a total freak. I never get crushes on people who I could possibly date, just strangers. Maybe I should start doing the whole Carolyn Bessette thing except I’m not drop dead stunning and 6 ft tall…..hmmm…
Yakitori in Japan is supposed to be entertaining in itself. Its not supposed to be “just another restaurant to eat at”, but a place where salarymen gather with or without their young mistresses to convene after work. The waiters at this restaurant, as you can see, are the stars of the show. But they are not only waiters, they are the cooks as well. I wonder where these dudes go after their work is done to let loose/eat.
Flash fried fish. As you can see, yakitori restaurants now vary from skewered meat to prepared fish. They took out a live fish from the tank, pierced the whole thing with a stick, and deep fried it. The stick was removed in this picture.
Grilled little crabs. They are supposed to be eaten as “crackers”. You obviously won’t find any substantial meat in these little crabs. The flavor of the shell is savored most.
Someone had ordered the live shrimp sashimi, with the eggs (the orange stuff). Again, a focus on “fresh” ingredients; they literally grabbed the shrimp out, dismembered the head, peeled the outer shell, and chopped the meat up and served it right away.
PART 2: YAKITORI IN the U.S.
It was only a matter of time before this popular method of cooking/eating would transfer itself to the states. Yakitori TAISHO on St. Marx street is by no means dedicated to freshness. I love coming here because I came here all the time during college and I’m attached to it but the food itself/service is mediocre. Actually the service is below mediocre, sort of heinous to the point where you have to constantly yell out for Iced water. But even with the low grade quality meat that is so chewy to the point of beef jerky, I still enjoy the food. Maybe its because I am always drinking when I’m here, everything tastes good when you’re inebriated. The yakitori here is definitely NOT the same quality but its good enough.
Again, a huge focus on the “bar” is made at all yakitori joints. Interactivity between the cooks/customer is quite important. There were too many people at the bar by this time so we got a table.
The heart of the restaurant, the skewers and grill. See that huge brownish jar? Thats where they dip all the raw meat skewers.
You can tell so much about a restaurant just from the menu. If there’s an option that says “Party” platter, you know what you’re in for…..
Too salty Edamame. Good to eat with beer.
Obligatory beer. In asian culture, you’re supposed to pour beer for your friends first. This is what Christina was doing for me. If you’re in Asia and you don’t follow this custom, they may not say anything to your face but they’ll think you’re a jerk and talk smack behind your back saying “you’ve got no manners”.
We didn’t get the party platter, and instead ordered a customized deal. You can see that freshness isn’t valued here, its more about replicating a “street food” style of serving food. These are the perfect bites to eat with beer and its easy to gossip in between when you don’t have to focus on cutting up your food with a fork & knife.
Quail egg and scallion.
1/2 bit into steak skewer. You’ll notice several things. The meat is overcooked. You can also see its “tough”, not tender. As I said I usually have to chew this off with exertion. But somehow…its ok, it tastes good.
Agedashi Tofu. Its basically super soft tofu cubes lightly fried in potato starch and then placed in a light soba sauce. Usually its garnished with scallion and Dashi as well.
Customized with a good helping of Shichimi.
Onigiri. Onigiri is exactly what the picture describes, a grilled, triangular rice ball with stuffing. On the outer edges of the rice they brush it with the teriyaki soy before they grill it. Its sort of like a big sushi ball, except this one doesn’t have the seaweed laver. Usually Onigiri is wrapped with laver. The stuffing may consist of Spicy tuna, salmon, ikura, or shrimp We ordered the one with Spicy Cod Roe, or Mentaiko. Its sort of like when you go to a convenience store, there are the pre-wrapped sandwiches…Well this is the Japanese equivalent. A triangular rice sandwich with filling. Fast, and usually eaten with your hands.
They use raw mentaiko (pickled cod roe in its raw state) but then the mentaiko becomes slightly opaque as the heat of the rice slightly cooks it. I love this. I love slightly cooked mentaiko. If you break open the Onigiri too early, your eggs may still be raw. This is usually how its eaten, in its raw state. Since they are pickled it doesn’t matter if they are uncooked. This is just how I prefer to eat it. All it takes a little patience.
For the second round of drinks we ordered Calpico cocktails.
Fried squid legs. You know how when you order Calamari from Italian restaurants they’ll give you mostly the white squid rings and then several squid legs mixed in? I only like the legs. It has a chewier texture. In Yakitori they serve squid legs separately and I’ve always appreciated that. These were very crispy (probably fried in some egg white/starch mixture) and salty…
Fresh japanese Ramen.
Noodles littered with Shichimi pepper.
The real gem of this dish is the UBER salty, UBER savory broth. This is the stuff that calms your stomach when you start to get nausea from drinking. You can see the pickled ginger (red string like texture) paints the broth pink.