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Posts Tagged ‘yakitori’

The other night Yuki and I met up with a bunch of her ex-coworkers who have moved back to Tokyo. They got a table at a modern, hip Yakitori joint in the Hibiya neighborhood. If you want to buy a brand new Hermes bag, Hibiya is the place for you. It’s a very swanky area filled with great food. The place they met us at is called Yakitori Akira. It’s in the basement of a large office/shopping building along with a handful of other slightly upscale food joints.

When you walk in you take your shoes off and walk past the open counter where the chefs prepare the chow. The tables are sunken. I was a little nervous at first because the tables were floor level and my knees are terrible. But, the floor was recessed making them regular table height, something that is becoming more common in newer restaurants, sort of fusion if you will.

The first dish, after a cold draft beer of course,  was a salad of raw Nappa cabbage swimming in a mayonnaise-based dressing and topped with sliced kombu.

After that came some natto topped with sliced green onions and nori seaweed. Natto is a love-hate food. You either love it or you hate it. It’s a type of fermented soy bean and has a really pungent odor, like ripe armpits. It also has a very sticky texture. It’s commonly eaten with Chinese-style mustard to mask some of the smell. Yuki loves it, I don’t prefer it. Very few Westerners can tolerate it and, these days, not so many of the younger Japanese do either. But, I had to try it since they put it in my face. Needless to say, I took one bite and the quickly proceeded to chug some beer!

Then we had some chicken karage, Japanese-style chicken nuggets. Unlike your McDonald’s variety of processed crap, this is big juicy chunks of thigh meat. I have no idea what kind of sauce this one came with, but it sure was tasty!

This here is the dish I was most looking forward to…rare chicken meat! The meat from the neck was quickly seared, almost completely raw (the pink you see in the picture is indeed raw chicken), on a hot skillet and served with some yuzu kosho. Rare chicken is extremely controversial, for obvious reasons, but given the upscale atmosphere I was certain they were using fresh, high quality birds. Since I have yet to get diarrhea or vomit profusely, I’m pretty sure the meat was clean. Flavor-wise it tasted like chicken, oddly enough. The texture was a little chewy, chicken al dente. Honestly, it’s nothing really special, it’s just chicken meat.

Avocado sautéed in some sort of shoyu sauce came next. Coming from Chicago I’m used to Mexican preparations of avocado. This was a nice change to what my taste buds are used to. The sauce carmelized a little while the avocado stayed nice and soft.

After the Avocado we spiced things up a bit with some kimchi. It was served with some chopped green onion, julienned daikon, and a shiso leaf.

Next came what is probably my favorite snack of the night, deep-fried chicken skin. Japan’s answer to chicharones. Crispy, buttery, all-around chickeny goodness! I may have to make this a staple of my future diet.

What tour around the bird would complete without some chicken wings? These were deep-fried with either basil or shiso in the batter, I couldn’t really tell. With a squirt of lemon they were delicious.

The main course of the night was the table-top charcoal grill. Instead of eating yakitori style (chicken on skewers) we ate yakiniku style (grill yourself). The first pieces we grilled were breast meat wrapped in shiso leaf.

The other pieces of chicken we got were neck meat, 2 parts of the heart (heart skin and heart meat), meat that was dangling off a piece of cartilage (I think the breastplate), and skin. We also had a few pieces of okra to grill.

Once the meat was grilled we dipped the pieces into an onsen egg. Basically it’s just an egg that’s been barely soft-boiled to the point where the whites were just set and the yolk is still runny. To me, this is natures most perfect sauce.

After all of that chicken we decided to get a few cuts of pork for shits and giggles. We got shoulder, cheek, and side meat and grilled them all the same as the chicken.

As Yuki and I were leaving due to having Otis back at grandma and grandpa’s, everyone else ordered up some soup. I really have no idea what was in the soup, but I imagine it was miso. From the pic I took here as I left I can definitely tell you it was topped with nori and had a shtickle of wasabi.

All in all, I thought Akira was a great izakaya. They call themselves Yakitori Akira because the chef’s specialty is chicken, but to me it’s not a yakitori restaurant at all, even though they do serve yakitori. The menu is much too diverse to be called yakitori. Since they serve up numerous small plates and whatnot with a nice beer and sake list, its pure izakaya to me. That said, what’s in a name? An izakaya by any other name’s chicken would taste is sweet.

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Braised yakitori, kind of a misnomer. Yakitori translates to “grilled chicken”. I didn’t grill anything for this dish. Braised typically means cooking something in liquid over low heat for a long period of time. I didn’t do that either. What I did was make a standard yakitori marinade and cook some chicken thighs along with green onions in it. Why did I call this “Braised Yakitori”? Honestly, I just don’t know what else to call it.

First thing I did was make the marinade. In a small saucepan I poured in 5 tablespoons of soy sauce, 4 tablespoons of sake, 1 tablespoon of mirin, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. I brought it up to a low boil and let it gently simmer for about 5 minutes or so. I just wanted the sugar to dissolve and the marinade to thicken up slightly. After that I turned the heat off and let it cool down for about an hour, until it reached room temperature.

I minced up 2 garlic cloves and chopped up 6 green onions and 6 skinless and boneless chicken thighs. I mixed them all together in a glass dish and poured to marinade over. Covered with plastic wrap I put it in the fridge while I got the veggies and miso soup ready.

For the miso soup I only made 2 portions. We had some tomato soup leftover from Kasia’s that became lunch today, so I didn’t need to make too much. I used 1-1.5 tablespoons of miso, one yukon gold potato skinned and chopped, 3 shiitake sliced, 2 tablespoons of dashi flavored soy sauce, and some salted wakame. For the wakame, you have to rinse the salt off and then let it soak in cold water for about 10-15 minutes. I honestly cannot tell you how much I used, I just eye-balled it. You have to be careful though because it does get considerable larger as it absorbs the water.

In a small soup pan I poured in about 1.25 cups of water and added the dashi soy, potato, and shiitake. I let it simmer over a very low boil for about 20 minutes. That was just long enough for the potato to cook but not so long that it started to disintegrate.

Just before serving I put the miso in our little tea colander and swished it around for a few minutes until it all mixed into the soup. Using the colander keeps the miso from being chunky. But, this was right before serving (at which time I also added the wakame). Before I did this I made the veggies and cooked the chicken.

I kept the veggies very simple. I cut up 1 head of broccoli, sliced up 1 carrot, and rinsed about 2-3 ounces of bean sprouts. I got my steamer going and steamed the broccoli and carrot for about 5 minutes. After that I added the bean sprouts and let it go for another minute or so. A little sprinkle of salt and the veggies were ready.

To cook the chicken I heated up my pan and added about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. When the oil was shimmering I just dumped everything in. It took about 9 or 10 minutes for the chicken to cook through and the sauce the thicken up a little. I seasoned with a little black pepper and that was all.

Of course, white rice accompanied the night’s chow.

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