A beloved dish in Japan, yakitori is prepared by grilling chicken meat and flavoring it with a salt or soy sauce-based condiment. Its widespread popularity has led to numerous specialized yakitori shops across the country. While there are many affordable establishments for a delightful yakitori and sake experience, there are also high-end restaurants in Japan that offer exquisite course meals or wine pairings with yakitori. This article will delve into the unique qualities of Japanese yakitori and provide recommendations for delicious yakitori restaurants.
Why Is Yakitori Considered Japan's Soul Food?
While grilling chicken meat on bamboo skewers over charcoal may seem simple, becoming a yakitori master requires considerable skill. Skewering the chicken to ensure even and tender cooking and making precise heat adjustments while carefully monitoring the meat's condition are highly challenging tasks. There's a famous saying in Japan, "Three years of skewering, a lifetime of grilling," emphasizing that it takes three years to master the skewering technique and a lifetime to become a seasoned yakitori artisan. This saying perfectly captures the dedication and expertise required for this craft.
Classic Yakitori Menu Options
Negima consists of yakitori skewers with alternating pieces of chicken thigh meat and leek. The slow grilling process brings out the natural sweetness of the leek, complementing the chicken thigh meat's umami flavor.
Tsukune is a type of yakitori made by grinding chicken meat, such as breast or thigh, into meat paste and shaping it into balls or cylindrical shapes. Though chicken meat serves as the base, different restaurants may incorporate additional elements. Some places may add finely crushed cartilage for a unique texture, while others might include chicken skin or onions to enhance the sweetness of the meat and vegetables. Each establishment offers its own distinct flavor.
Tebasaki refers to chicken wings. They have a generous amount of fat and are abundant in collagen. They are often seasoned with black pepper, which adds a subtle spiciness that enhances the robust flavor of the meat surrounding the bones.
Sunagimo is a yakitori skewer made from grilled chicken gizzards. Gizzards are muscular organs responsible for grinding food with the help of the small stones or shell fragments found inside them. Being primarily composed of muscle, they have minimal odor and a texture that is firm yet tender, making them interesting to eat.
There Are Many Ways to Enjoy Yakitori
You can also order two skewers each of five different cuts, season one with shio and the other with tare, and share them with friends. If you come to a yakitori restaurant after having dinner at another place, how about ordering two refreshing shio negima skewers and some sake?
With these high-end establishments, you can enjoy yakitori in a different ambiance than traditional izakaya, such as restaurants with beautiful night views or tranquil settings with jazz music playing in the background.
When you visit Japan, you should try both the low-cost, everyday yakitori and the high-end yakitori to experience the contrast in flavors and dining experiences.
Recommended Yakitori Restaurants
Izakaya Tarochan (Nihombashi)
You can order yakitori starting from one skewer, with options such as Torimomo (chicken thigh), Negima, and Sunagimo all priced at 150 JPY. They also offer classic and reasonably priced izakaya dishes: soy sauce-flavored Deep-Fried Chicken for 380 JPY, Edamame (boiled green soybeans) for 280 JPY, and Sashimi starting from 580 JPY.
The restaurant is located in the Nippombashi area of Osaka, known for its concentration of electronics retailers and anime-related shops. It's a great idea to taste their yakitori and the owner's recommended local sake after shopping in the area!
Average price: [Dinner] 2,000 JPY
Access: 3 minutes walk from Exit 2 of Nippombashi Station on the Osaka Metro Sakaisuji Line
Address: 1F, Adeu Sennichimae Nibankan, 1-1-10, Sennichimae, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka Map
Sumiyakitori Sato (Hosui Susukino)
For a truly unique dining experience highlighting seasonal flavors, their [Special Plan] comprising 13 dishes (7,000 JPY, plus a 10% service charge per person) comes recommended. This course allows you to savor and compare the distinct flavors of both Otaru Jidori and other premium chicken varieties.
Average price: [Dinner] 7,500 JPY
Access: About 10 seconds walk from Hosui-Susukino Station on the Subway Toho Line. Go out from Exit 1, it is located on the 2nd floor of the building right in front
Address: 2F, SB41 Bldg., 1-5-2, Minami-shijo Nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido Map
Yakitori Hirano (Shimbashi)
By the way, the recipe for the tare from [Yakitori Hirano] has been passed down for generations over half a century. This unique sauce imparts a delightful fermented aroma and enriches the yakitori with a succulent umami taste, making you want to eat more.
Closed: Sunday, National Holidays
Average price: [Dinner] 15,000 JPY
Access: 5-minute walk from Shimbashi Station on the Ginza Line, 6-minute walk from JR Shimbashi Station, 6-minute walk from Higashi-Ginza Station on the Hibiya Line
Address: 1F, Zenkoku Nenryokaikan, 8-12-15, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map