Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chopstick it over, Tokyo! - Yakitori

This is a guest post by Joel Edinberg, my frequent dining companion/co-conspirator/etc. Just over a year ago, he took a business trip to Japan. He took tons of food photos to make me jealous. He succeeded. This is the second of four posts by Joel about the food he encountered on his trip. You can read the first post here.
Yesterday, I told you about some of the not-too-weird foods I ate in Japan. Today, I'm going to focus on one in particular. While my colleague was still in town, we went to a yakitori restaurant. This is just a great type of food that is also not too weird for Americans. If you don’t know what yakitori is, it’s basically meat on a stick… and who doesn’t love meat on a stick (besides vegetarians and people who hate sticks)? I wish I could remember the name of this restaurant, but it’s quite difficult to remember all the Japanese characters. Either way, a great part of this place was that the owner/head chef speaks English very well and has traveled to the USA a few times. This made it really easy to get translations for the menu.

Here you can see the master at work.
After my colleague left town, I was still craving some yakitori, so I had to come back. The owner even remembered me, though I guess I did stick out a little in Japan. So, I decided to start off my meal with some pork and beef sausage. Grilled to perfection is a great way to describe all the food I ate here. It was just a little charred on the outside and really juicy on the inside. I followed that up with some beef and onion on a stick, accompanied by some special sauce, and some grilled pork and onion with a good mustard dipping sauce.

Yakitori beef and pork sausage.
Yakitori beef and onion.
Yakitori pork and onion.
As one could imagine, a good Japanese beer went perfectly with this meal. But, that’s a lot of meat to just eat alone, so to make this meal a little healthier, I ordered some grilled peppers. They were lightly salted and actually ended up being one of my favorite dishes here. The peppers made the meal feel complete, allowing me to have four of the important food groups: Beef, Pork, Vegetable, and Beer.

But, I have learned one very valuable lesson when sitting at the bar at a restaurant and talking with the waitstaff and head chef. You should always ask about the chef’s favorite dish. Considering that all the other food was just so good, I had to know what he would recommend. This was a great idea because he makes some killer fried chicken wings.

These were fried with a special sauce and topped with some sesame seeds.  They were just so good.  Crispy on the outside with a nice salty and sweet flavor, and fried just right.  I only wished that I hadn't eaten all the other food before ordering these so I could have ordered more.

Well, that’s about it for the less adventurous food that I ate while in Japan.  Sake helps a lot with my willingness to eat less conventional food...read my third post and you’ll find out what that actually means ;)

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