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.
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Since a trip to Japan years ago, I've searched high and low for authentic yakitori joints in the U.S., mostly to no avail. They should be simple little places, sheathed in wood paneling and coated in smoke resin, built up from years of nightly grilling. I love Biwa in Portland, and New York City's Totto empire, but even their happy hour prices can seem exorbitant. Still hoping for that true yakitori experience, this week I tried two "yaks" on a scouting trip to Los Angeles.
The Japanese term yakitori literally means "grilled bird," and refers to skewers of chicken barbecued over a charcoal grill. Commonly served in casual, inexpensive izakayas (Japanese drinking establishments with food beyond bar snacks) and beer gardens, yakitori is considered by...