Bite size chicken pieces on a skewer are roasted above a charcoal flame and eaten with sauce or salt. This food is so popular as a side dish with drinks that people often say “beer with yakitori” to mean “go out for drinks”. Most yakitori shops are down-to-earth shops centered around counter seating, but there are also high class restaurants available as well. Some meat shops grill and sell yakitori at the storefront to take home and eat with rice.
The chicken selections are not only meat, but also include almost all portions of the chicken like the organs and skin. Thigh meat or breast meat are the most orthodox choices. The tenderloin (sasami) portion near the breast is low in fat and healthy.
A “negima” is a type of yakitori with “negi” (Japanese chives) and meat staggered on the skewer. “Rebaa” yakitori is the liver portion, but compared to the liver of other animals, chicken livers are not as bitter and have a full bodied flavor. “Tsukune” yakitori is ground chicken meat which is rolled into balls or kneaded into thick stick like shapes to give a tender texture that is also easy for children to eat.
If you want to enjoy a firmer texture, try the “sunagimo” (a part of the stomach) or “nankotsu” (cartilage). Deep fried “tebasaki” (wingtips) are also popular. Tebasaki are fragrantly deep fried and flavored with salt, pepper, and sweet and zesty sauce. And if you want to try some kind of odd parts, some shops serve up things like “hatsu” (heart), “ponjiri” (hind end), “seseri” (neck) “tosaka” (chicken comb), and “kogan” (testicles). Each part requires its own different kind of fine tuning on the grill, so a master griller technique is very important.
The prices can be for each skewer or a set of two skewers. If you want to try different flavors, ordering a mixed skewer plate is a good idea.
When you order, the wait staff might ask if you want sauce (tare) or salt (“Tare ni shimasu ka? Shio ni shimasu ka?”). The sauce is a blend of ingredients like soy sauce and mirin with a sweet and zesty flavor. If you want a lighter feel, try the salt instead. You might also be offered miso flavoring as well. If you want something a little more spicy, try sprinkling on some “shichimi togarashi” (seven chili pepper blend).
Recently, more and more yakitori shops are including pork on their menus under the catchphrase “yakiton” (“yaki” is grill and “ton” is one way of saying pork). These pork selections include an assortment of parts just like the chicken selections.
This is a chain restaurant that specializes in chicken cuisine and is especially famous for its deep fried “tebasaki” (wingtips). Most of its locations are in Tokyo downtown areas like Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro. Some of the locations have private rooms, and the ample menu selections make this restaurant usable as an “izakaya” (Japanese style tavern) as well.
Bird Land Ginza
This yakitori shop has been awarded with one star from Michelin. The chicken meat comes from Okukuji Shamo chickens raised amidst nature thick with greenery. A course meal menu (6,000 yen and up) is available. Reservations in English are accepted at the website.
Tsukamoto Suzan Bldg. 1st basement floor, 4-2-15 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo
Business hours: 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Closed: Mon, Sun & Holidays
Tokyo Yakitoritei Ginza Honten
This restaurant offers high quality with “Nagoya kochin”, one of the most famous chicken brands. Only female chickens processed that morning are used, so the yakitori is always very fresh. Located on Sukiya Dori Street, the interior is brimming with a high class feel.
Ginza No.4 Kanai Bldg 1f, 7-3-13 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo
Lunch 11:30-13:30(last order)
Dinner 17:30-22:30(last order)
Akasaka Yakitori Luis
In addition to chicken, this restaurant serves up 27 types of grilled skewers including beef, pork, and vegetables as well. It also offers a nice variety of beer selections. Course meals are also available, but the atmosphere is casual. Being located in the Akasaka area means that foreigners are often seen dining here.
Trade Akasaka Bldg. 1 basement floor, 5-4-14 Akasaka Minato-ku Tokyo
Mon – Fri 5:00 p.m. – 11:15 p.m. (Last order 10:30 p.m.)
Sat & Holidays 5:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.( Last order 9:45 p.m.)
Closed: Sun (Closed on Monday instead if Monday is a national holiday)