Yakitori — chicken on skewers roasted over an open flame
Yakitori restaurants serve a wide range of food in bite-sized portions. They range from casual, standing-room-only beer dens filled with noisy salarymen to more sophisticated sit-down restaurants. Yakitori can be eaten as a short pre-dinner snack of a few chicken skewers with beer, or as a full meal filled with all sorts of delicious and surprising dishes.
Types of yakitori
Yakitori restaurants serve every part of the chicken, even parts that are not commonly eaten in the West. Start with a simple order of negima, white meat chicken skewered with scallions. Sasami wasabi is a white meat chicken filet, lightly grilled and served with a dollop of wasasbi on top. If you're feeling more adventurous, you could order the sunagimo, chicken gizzards or chicken hearts. The latter have a beef-like texture, smoky flavor and go great with chili pepper.
Shio or tare
There are two main marinades for yakitori: shio, salt based; or tare, a sweetened barbecue sauce. When you visit a yakitori restaurant your server may ask you which you prefer when you order. The chef will dip the skewer in the marinade of your choice before grilling them. Do not worry about choosing the correct marinade as servers will only ask when either marinade goes well with the dish. If they don't ask which marinade you prefer it is because your dish may come with something different — wasabi or salted plum paste, for example.
Other yakitori dishes
Yakitori restaurants specialize in grilled chicken, but that is not all they serve. Some other common grilled items at a yakitori restaurant include beef tongue, pork belly and even bite-sized pieces of steak. For vegetables, salads, chilled tomatoes and seasonal items such as young bamboo and baby corn are also common. Yakitori restaurants typically have expansive menus with a variety of options.
Where to eat yakitori
Visitors to Fukuoka will want to check out the many food stalls along the Nakasu river that serve yakitori. If you are in Osaka there are a variety of yakitori establishments within a short walk from JR Tenma Station.
Visitors to Tokyo can find a variety of yakitori in the Omoide Yokocho, Shinbashi and Koenji areas. For a more sophisticated yakitori restaurant with an impressive wine menu, try Kitchen Doromamire near Yotsuya San-chome in Tokyo. For a more casual experience, the chain Torikizoku can be found in most parts of Japan.