Hakata-Style Yakitori at Tokyo's Hachibei
Tokyo is loaded with yakitori restaurants, most notably in Yakitori Alley near Shinjuku Station where the smoke-filled, sake and beer-stained holes-in-the-wall rumble with each passing train. Make your way to upscale Roppongi Hills, though, and you'll find an altogether different yakitori experience.
Hachibei serves Hakata-style yakitori in a classy setting. Yakitori literally means grilled chicken, with any and all parts of the bird served up on skewers. That's delicious, but you'll find relatively little offal at Hachibei, and a lot more than chicken, as Hakata-style means variety on the skewer—with different flavoring as well.
Spritzing with high-quality sake and sprinkling with salt is what sets Hachibei's yakitori apart from the outset. In addition to chicken, you'll find items like pork belly, pig's foot, beef tongue, and a variety of vegetables slipped on skewers and ready for high-heat charcoal grilling. The menu also includes appetizers, sashimi (including basashi—horse meat from Kyushu), boiled dishes, rice and noodles, and a specialty dessert.
Chef/owner Katsunori Yashima is the son of a butcher. Growing up in a small town in Kyushu, he quickly learned about meat and how to cook it. While many think of yakitori as lower-class food, Yashima seeks to elevate the cuisine, and has proudly expanded the Hachibei family of restaurants from Hakata and Fukuoka on Kyushu to Tokyo. He's actually considered a pioneer in pairing yakitori with wine, and you'll find a formidable wine cellar in the Roppongi Hills restaurant.
For more of the fiery fun, click through to the photos in the slideshow.
About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.