eat. shop. love. nyc.


Arigato, Mr. Robata (Yaki)
August 16, 2009, 6:34 pm
Filed under: Drink, Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ever since my first exposure to robata yaki at Katana in Los Angeles, I’ve been a huge fan. I suppose you can’t really go that wrong with grilled meat or veggies on a stick; I love all meat on a stick I’ve ever tried: shish kebabs, carne en polito, brochette, chicken tikka, and satay. My love for grilled food on sticks was reignited on recent visits to Village Yokocho and Yakitori Taisho in the East Village (Saint Marks) with out-of-town visitors.

I’d have to say my favorite robata yaki at Yakitori Taisho was the grilled, skin-on shrimp. It went especially well with the grilled scallion skewers and sake.

The great thing about izakayas (Japanese bars, often with exceptional bar food) is that there is some real nice variety there. You can have your yakitori (which actually translates to grilled chicken, but is often used to refer to Japanese skewers or robata yaki). You can have your fried chicken, Japanese style with freshly squeezed lemon. You can have your edamame. You can have your okonomiyaki. You can have your ramen (though I’d recommend going to a bonafide ramen specialty shop for that).

I found that Village Yokocho felt a lot more Japanese to me, not just because the of the red lanterns, but because of the dark wood interior with slightly more private tables. One thing that really struck me when I dined at izakayas in Tokyo was how private each table was. Sometimes the tables were cubbied and compartmentalized, almost like going into a cubicle, so as not to allow disturbance from other tables and provide a respectable degree privacy. Other times, guests would dine in closed, private dining rooms, even for parties as small as 4 or 6 people.

I also liked the food a lot. A lot a lot a lot. The skewers here were phenomenal, although admittedly a tad pricier than Yakitori Taisho. (L, top to bottom) bacon wrapped skewers: asparagus, scallops, enoki mushrooms. (R, top to bottom) combo skewers: chicken meatballs, beef, chicken, chicken and scallion, chicken teriyaki.

The absolute standout dish here was the deep fried squid legs, served simply with lemon and mayonnaise. Succulent squid legs, deep fried to crispy perfection. I am a big squid fan to begin with, but this tops my favorite squid experiences list, along with Korean steamed sliced squid with cho-jang (sweet and spicy red pepper sauce) and Korean hanchi, dried grilled cuttlefish.

I also very much enjoyed the uni, salmon roe, crab, tuna, and salmon over sushi rice. In my opinion, a very delicious spin on a traditional chirashi (raw fish served over sushi rice).

I’m glad I took my parents to Village Yokocho, and I hope I’ll be able to go back frequently. Even despite the fact that they managed to rack up 9 health code violations at their last inspection in July. I’m actually glad I didn’t know about the violations prior to dining, or else I may not have tried dining there. But I didn’t get sick, and my guess is most people haven’t, and I’m still going back.

Arigato, Village Yokocho.

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