Saturday, December 26, 2015

Yakitoriya (Los Angeles, CA)

Yakitori-ya Restaurant
11301 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064
310.479.5400
Sat 12/26/2015, 09:20p-11:15p




Yakitoriya Exterior

In terms of yakitori, Tomohiro Sakata's longstanding Kokekokko is often regarded as the standard bearer around these parts, at least if you have VIP status there. Another contender for the crown that I'd yet to try until now is Sawtelle's Yakitoriya. The place was opened in 1997 by Chef/Owner Toshi Sakamaki, who actually started working at Kokekokko when it opened in 1988. The restaurant's located inside the Olympic Collection, right next door to Kiriko and not far from Butcher's Dog.

Yakitoriya Beer/Sake/Shochu List Yakitoriya Menu Yakitoriya Side Orders Menu Yakitoriya Soft Drink List & Dessert Menu Yakitoriya Wine List
Menu-wise, we have a small selection of assorted Jidori chicken parts (grilled on binchotan, natch), along with your typical yakitori accompaniments, a separate list of more composed sides, and a few specials. Take note of the five skewer per person minimum, as well as the presence of off-menu skewers (described below). To drink, there's the usual beer suspects, some sake, shochu, and wine (some of it quite high-end). Corkage is an abnormally high $35. Click for larger versions.

Kubota 'Senju'
We opted for sake this evening, and first came the Kubota "Senju" [$46]. It went over well with me, giving up persistent notes of tropical fruit and spice on the nose, while the taste showed off a ricey sweetness with some heat creeping up on the back end.

Breast
Breast [$2.50]
We got right into it with the sasami, a standout preparation with loads of flavor joined by well-placed accents of salt and wasabi. It was spot on texturally too, as I appreciated how the meat was cooked just under well-done.

Liver
Liver [$2.50]
The was very likely the best reba I've had, with none of that dry, grainy character that you typically find with the organ. Instead, it came out creamy and mild, with soft liver-y notes backed by a good amount of char bitterness.

Zosui
Zosui [$13.00] | Rice porridge with chicken, vegetable & egg
A rice soup was homey at its core, with permeating chicken flavors augmented by umami notes from the seaweed.

Gizzard
Gizzard [$2.50]
Sunagimo was wonderfully crunchy and superbly complemented by elements of salt and smoke.

Thigh
Thigh [$2.50]
Momo was served in negima fashion, with the savory bird playing perfectly off of the astringency of those spring onions.

Soboro rice (Small)
Soboro rice (Small) [$7.50] | Flavored ground chicken over rice, raw quail egg on top
The soboro donburi was worth trying as well, a comforting, filling bowl with the chicken and rice melding seamlessly.

Meatball
Meatball [$2.50]
The tsukune was lighter than usual, and also less sweet, instead offering up a delicious mix of smoky, savory, salty flavors.

Skin
Skin [$4.50]
Kawa was on point, a marriage between charred crispy bits and some more gelatinous textures.

Deep fried Gizzard with Garlic soy sauce flavor
Deep fried Gizzard with Garlic soy sauce flavor [$5.50]
Fried gizzards were excellent, conveying that perfect combination of snap and crunch and savoriness that made me just want to keep popping these guys. Easily better than the versions you get at places like Gaam (sort of my baseline for the dish).

Quail egg
Quail egg [$2.50]
Uzuranotamago could be likened to miniature hard-boiled eggs.

Yakitoriya style pan fried Chicken dumpling with Ponzu
Yakitoriya style pan fried Chicken dumpling with Ponzu [$7.50]
I was a fan of the gyoza as well, their herbiness working well alongside the tangy ponzu.

Shishito pepper with Sliced chicken
Shishito pepper with Sliced chicken [$2.50]
Shishitos possessed a good balance between heat and char, while ribbons of chicken served as a tempering component.

Cartilage
Cartilage
Nankotsu had all the cartilaginous, crunchy textures that you'd want, along with a permeating smokiness.

Steamed Abalone
Steamed Abalone [$15.20]
Awabi was deftly prepared--firm yet supple to the bite--with a subtle brine that was well moderated by that dab of wasabi on the side.

Hakkaisan 'Junmai'
Next was a half bottle of the Hakkaisan "Junmai" [$18]. This was a heftier sake compared to the Kubota: aromas of rich, sugary rice and melon and flavors of the same, with an alcoholic heat peeking through at times.

Tail
Tail
The bonjiri just might've been my favorite skewer of the night. It sort of had it all, with char, fat, savor, depth, and crunch showing up in perfect harmony.

Duck and Mushroom Ravioli with White Truffle oil sauce
Duck and Mushroom Ravioli with White Truffle oil sauce [$11.50]
Ravioli were somewhat difficult to eat given their size, while flavor-wise they offered up rich mushroom amped up by pervasive notes of truffle.

Tomato
Tomato
Chicken and char worked as a counter to the juicy sweetness of the tomatoes.

Wing
Wing [$3.75]
One of the more substantial skewers, the tebasaki was gratifying with its smoky, salty flavors and crunch.

One day dried Squid
One day dried Squid [$8.50]
Squid was almost pillow-y to the bite, with a delicate brine that paired nicely with the creamy condiment on the side.

Special Heart
Special Heart
Toku hatsu was delightfully springy, with a little more fat, a little more flavor compared to your usual heart.

Smoked Duck breast over Organic Arugula
Smoked Duck breast over Organic Arugula [$10.50]
Duck was properly smoky, with an almost "hammy" taste to it, and went nicely alongside the zesty greens.

Special Special Heart
Special Special Heart
In comparison to the hatsu above, the tokujo hatsu's apparently made from the aorta and fat surrounding the heart, and was thus snappier to the chew, with a more intense flavor profile.

Chicken Oyster
Chicken Oyster
Soriresu (from the French sot-l'y-laisse) was another standout, like thigh meat but kicked up a notch in the flavor department and somewhat firmer in consistency. Great with the dabs of salty-spicy yuzukosho.

Soy Chicken Soup Ramen
Soy Chicken Soup Ramen [$7.50]
A chicken ramen was relatively light, the bird complemented by umami-rich nuances of shoyu while the moyashi (bean sprouts) brightened the dish.

Sweetbreads
Sweetbreads
Otafuku, or thymus, was also a highlight. I found 'em sweet and savory to the taste, while texturally they had a great interplay between their creamy interiors and charred crisp outsides.

Breast Cartilage
Breast Cartilage
We ended with the yagen nankotsu, another uncommon sight. In terms of consistency, they were somewhat more pliant compared to the nankotsu above, but still had a satisfying crunch, along with a stronger char character. I definitely preferred 'em.

Black Bean Ice Cream
Black Bean Ice Cream [$6.00]
With the yakitori done with, we moved into a couple of the restaurant's homemade ice creams. The first featured black bean, which imparted some sweet, nutty flavors along with an interesting textural component. Very good.

Kinako Ice Cream
Kinako Ice Cream [$6.00]
This one just might've been a hair better though, the soybean flour bestowing some delectably roasty, nutty, grainy notes to the ice cream.

I left properly impressed with Yakitoriya. The depth of Toshi-san's experience and the quality of the chicken was plainly evident, and combined for what probably amounts to the best yakitori experience I've had. The skewers themselves were pretty much flawless, and the non-skewer items were definitely worth checking out as well. If you're a fan of yakitori, this place needs to be on your to-eat list.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kokekokko not long standing anymore.

Sunday, February 28, 2016 9:30:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

It's still around, just with a new name of Torigoya. See: https://www.facebook.com/KokeKokkoLA/posts/1201211186575055.

Monday, February 29, 2016 2:08:00 AM  
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