Friday, April 17, 2009

For Love Of... Yakitori


I have been in a bit of a Yakitori phase at the moment. I made another stop at Yakitori Totto last night and had a quick visit to Mr. Jones Yakitori earlier in the week.
For the uninitiated Yakitori (焼き鳥 やきとり) is a Japanese type of skewered chicken.

Yakitori Totto seems to me to be very authentic (without having actually visited Japan). It's always busy and sometimes the wait can be long, but it is worth it. There is a buzz about sitting in front of the grill that I love. If you are ordering items from the limited section of the menu (basically the weird stuff), they run out early in the evening. The waitress will check on the status by yelling at the guys on the grill - which I love, especially since they take orders on handheld devices.
On my recent visits I have tried the following:
  • totto kimchee
  • tako kara age: deep-fried octopus
  • hatsu (ハツ): chicken heart
  • rebā (レバー): liver
  • sunagimo (砂肝): chicken gizzard
  • tsukune (つくね): chicken meatballs with quail egg
  • (tori)kawa (とり)かわ): chicken skin, grilled until crispy
  • bonjiri (ぼんじり): chicken tail
  • seseri: chicken neck
  • shirauo kara age: fried silver fish with green tea powder and sea salt
  • kobe beek gyutan: kobe beef tongue
What's great: chicken heart (really chickeny delicious), chicken liver (soft, creamy, tasty), chicken tail (tiny pieices of tasty chicken), chicken skin (like the best part of KFC, but even better), fried silver fish (green tea powder and salt really makes it, these are like fried food crack).
What's interesting: chicken soft knee (crunchy, boney, pretty tasty, worth trying, but not amazing), chicken gizzard (little chewy texture, good flavor though).

They also have a great selection of Shochu and Sake by the glass, carafe, and bottle.

Mr. Jones Yakitori has a pedigree that should make it an ideal spot. It's located in the East Village; the chef, Bryan Emperor, is American but put in time in restaurants in Kyoto and worked at Megu and Nobu in New York; the bartender (mixologist in trendy terms)
, Shin Ikeda, worked at Angel Share and B Flat, which are two of my favorite Japanese inspired cocktail joints in the city. I visited Mr. Jones this past rainy Monday evening and the place was pretty much empty, except for a couple of friends of the bartender. The cocktail list reminded me of B Flat's (not surprising) and we tried a Mr. Jones (wasabi infused vodka, zuicho sake, with cucumber, a Moscow Mule (vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer), and a French 75 (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and champagne). The cocktails were well made and are worth a try. For food, we only tasted a few items:
  • tsukune uzura: minced chicken with shichimi and quail egg
  • hatsu: chicken hearts in yakitori sauce
  • reba: chicken liver in yakitori sauce
These dishes were all well prepared and very tasty, especially the chicken hearts. The problem with Mr. Jones Yakitori is that components don't seem to add up; it is missing something. The food seems too expensive and the atmosphere a little off. We actually decided to head to Ramen Setagaya for a more economical and filling option.

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