People pack the smoke-filled izakaya……….
Yakitori on the grill…..smells gooood….
Tsukune and quail eggs…..YUM.
The classic yakitori w tare…………..
The sign says “delicious! cheap! fast!”
So am I at a yakitori house in Kichijoji? An izakaya in Koenji, perhaps? From my seat on a tiny little tree-stump of a stool, it certainly seemed like I was. The sounds, the smells…..even the ubiquitous salaryman smoking cigarettes in a plexi-glass “smoking room” made me feel like I was transported back to the cramped, underground pubs that I’d eaten countless cheap (and delicious) meals in during my seven year stint in Tokyo. While it’s difficult to find quailty food served with large quantities of good, strong beer for under $10 per person here, these izakayas are everywhere in Tokyo and other major metropolitan areas throughout Japan. Thanks to the izakaya, I filled my belly daily with everything from sashimi to yakitori; crunchy deep-fried wontons filled with cheese and mentaiko to fresh salads topped with a popular mix of canned tuna and canned corn; grilled onigiri painted with thin layer of sweet soy sauce to yakisoba noodles served on a sizzling cast iron plate……oh how I dearly miss the izakayas of my Tokyo days. You have NO idea how much!
So imagine my utter joy when J and I stumbled upon an entire ROW of yakitori-yas and izakayas on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village in New York City! We were dragging our butts back to our hotel after consuming embarassingly large quanities of wine and an array of rich tapas but when I saw plumes of chicken-fat-burning smoke, my fullness went away and we ducked in to not one but two places. In Japanese there is something called a “betsu-bara” which means a separate stomach and that is the one I filled with all kinds of grilled meats and little nibbles from both places. It Was Awesome. I was literally transported and it felt amazing as J and I held our glasses of sake and chu-hi up to make a toast.
Although Los Angeles certainly has it’s share of Japanese neighborhoods (Torrance, Sawtell, Gardena) it does not have the bustling city-vibe that Tokyo has. It makes complete sense that New York can recreate the same vibe as Tokyo, and although I’d never thought of living in New York before, St Mark’s Place may have put the idea in my head….at least a little!
Hope everyone has a very happy Thanksgiving filled with lots of amazing food!