by Mary Beth Maslowski
Yes, you read the headline correctly. And no, I’m not talking about a chicken frank or anything similar.
Yakitori restaurants are all over Japan and there are of course some here in NYC. By now you might be asking, what the heck is yakitori, anyway and why is it on a stick???
“Yaki” literally means cooked over direct heat and “tori” is chicken. However, at yakitori restaurants you can also get beef, pork, vegetables (like asparagus), tofu, and even squid skewered and then cooked over hot coals.
Personally, I love “tsukune,” which is basically chicken meatballs, and at Yakitori Taisho at 5 St. Mark’s Place they also have grilled chicken skin AND chicken liver. Taisho has pretty good prices and a student vibe.
Another tasty treat at Taisho is “okonomiyaki,” sort of a savory pancake with meat or seafood and vegetables covered in “tonkatsu” sauce and mayonnaise. (Tonkatsu sauce is ketchup, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, sugar, and ginger and it is pretty darn tasty!)
One of the most popular snacks in Japan is “takoyaki.” “Tako” is squid, and you already know what yaki means. Takoyaki is a small, ball-shaped bite made from wheat flour-based batter with little chunks of cooked squid in it. You might be thinking... Ugh! Doesn’t sound appealing at all! But they have splendiferous squid balls at Taisho, so you should try them!
If you want to go a bit upscale, hit Yakitori Totto at 251 W. 55th Street. This place is a bit bigger than Taisho, and has a different “fuinki.” (Fuinki=Ambiance/Mood) It’s a bit more grown-up, I guess is the best way to describe it.
“Negi Pon,” pork with scallions and “ponzu” sauce, is a delicious choice. (Ponzu sauce is a tangy, citrus-flavored soy sauce.) Another good choice is bacon-wrapped “enoki” mushrooms. (Enoki are long, thin white mushrooms used in a lot of Asian dishes.)
Of course Totto has all the regular yakitori fare mentioned above plus grilled scallops, grilled skirt steak, and yummy bacon-wrapped asparagus, which is of coursed, GRILLED. (There's a theme going on here!)
Yakitori Taisho Yakitori Totto
5 St. Mark's Place 251 W. 55th Street
Hours: 6 pm to 2 am Hours: to 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5:30 pm to 12 am
Phone: 212-228-5086 Phone: 212-245-4555