The word Yakitori simply means, “Grilled Bird.”

Standard Thigh with Scallions and Shishito Pepper

Standard Thigh with Scallions and Shishito Pepper

Simple enough.  But we all know the simplest things on earth are the ones that take a lifetime to master.  And that’s if you are lucky enough to work with the best.

Just recently, I stumbled upon a fantastic Yakitori shop near my hotel in Tokyo.  After striking up a conversation with the Chef (who is grilling each and every skewer ordered in the 20 or so seated restaurant), he tells me he sources his birds from Aichi Prefecture.  Akita and Nagoya may have more famous breeds when it comes to their Rhode Island Reds, but this Aichi Prefecture bird was not too shabby.  Aichi is somewhere between Tokyo and Kyoto, closer to Kyoto.

I had noticed the texture of the bird and especially the skin/fat was not like any I’ve ever had.  Very juicy and meaty for a cage free, free roaming bird.  Even the “kawa” (skin) was plump and meaty but not oily.

Chicken Skin dipped in a Soy Glaze and grilled to perfection

Chicken Skin dipped in a Soy Glaze and grilled to perfection

This particular restaurant, and many more like them, prefer to cook over Binchotan (Japanese charcoal).  Binchotan is highly sought after and there are probably over 10 different grades of Binchotan available for chefs to tinker around with.  The particular type and quality of wood, the size and shape of the charcoals all play in the speed and heat in which it burns.  Therefore you can imagine the attention to detail one may have when sourcing their charcoals.

I had pretty much the whole menu, meaning the whole bird.  Meticulously broken down and prepared on skewers, the pieces making up the a la carte menu are typically the Skin, Wings, Neck, Thigh, Oyster, Breast, Gizzard, Heart, Cartilage, and Liver.

Split Chicken Wings on skewer grilled over Binchotan Charcoals

Split Chicken Wings on skewer grilled over Binchotan Charcoals

A spice blend called “Shichimi” (literally means 7 essences)

A spice blend called “Shichimi” (literally means 7 essences)