Yakitori Story

Among Japan’s culinary treasure trove, which offers something for every palate, yakitori is a popular comfort food and snack that goes great with drinking beer or sake. Literally meaning, “grilled chicken,” yakitori consists of chunks of chicken meat grilled on skewers.

During a recent two-week trip to Japan, I was fortunate to dine at Kushi Yoshi, a yakitori specialty restaurant in Tokyo. Different parts of the chicken are grilled with a special sauce. From boneless chicken breast meat to the chicken’s tail and innards, nothing is wasted.

Kushi Yoshi yakitori restaurant in Tokyo

Sasami - boneless chicken breast - with wasabi and ume (plum) sauces

Tsukune, chicken meatballs

Bonjiri, chicken butt

Tsunagi, a tube that runs from the heart to the liver

Pork skewers

Before you grow green with envy over this succulent meal, you can have this tasty treat right here in New York City. Yakitori restaurants abound in the city, and many izakaya have the skewers on their menus.

Just a few NYC restaurants that serve yakitori:

  • Aburiya Kinnosuke – 213 E. 45th Street, Midtown East
  • East Japanese Restaurant – 210 E. 44th Street, Midtown East
  • Izakaya Ten – 207 10th Avenue, Chelsea
  • Kenka – 25 St. Marks Place, East Village
  • Oh! Taisho – 9 St. Marks Place, East Village
  • Sake Bar Hagi – 152 W. 49th Street, Theater District
  • Village Yokocho – 8 Stuyvesant Street, East Village
  • Yakitori Taisho – 5 St. Marks Place, East Village
  • Yakitori Tori Shin – 1193 1st Avenue, Upper East Side
  • Yakitori Totto – 251 W. 55th Street, Midtown West

What are your favorite yakitori restaurants in the City?

You can also cook yakitori at home with the help of Matsuri chef Tadashi Ono and food writer Harris Salat. Their cookbook, The Japanese Grill: From Classic Yakitori to Steak, Seafood, and Vegetables, is an easy-to-use reference to create your own skewers, made the Japanese way.

If you’re lucky, catch these two in a live demonstration. Earlier this summer, Ono and Salat discussed how to grill Japanese-style at events for the Japan Society and the Gohan Society. At both demonstrations, the cookbook-writing pair showed how easy it is to re-create classic yakitori recipes in your own home.

The Gohan Society event took place under the stars at the Cabana Bar atop the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea. Ono and Salat prepared several simple meals using Japanese ingredients and grilling techniques, starting with chicken skewers.

Gohan Society president Tamio Spiegel (second from left) addresses the crowd at Cabana

Matsuri chef Tadashi Ono slices chicken

Grilling under the stars at Cabana

Shrimp skewers