We were once again invited by the Kinka Family to taste the new sampling menu at Kintori Yakitori this time. On a windy, cold January night, a wholesome dish is exactly what we craved. Kintori Yakitori is specializing in delectable drinks and authentic Japanese grilled skewers or "yakitori". The oak charcoal used was imported all the way from Japan as well as the bamboo skewers themselves.
From the outside, there was not much signage to tell us about Kintori above Kinton Ramen. Nicely designed rust iron 3D letters, light up from under, the Kinton signage impressed us. An interesting wooden finish took over the second floor facade of he building, leaving space for only a tiny window which had a chicken and pig graphics to help prepare us for what we are about the enjoy.
We went through the glass door and up the stairs to Kintori Yakitori. Tall stairs awaited us with thin planks of wood on one side. This custom railing of the stairs transitioned into space separators in the upstairs restaurant. The burch and black wooden planks were nicely spaced out to give a sense of air and yet some privacy to those on the other side. The dining space was narrow with two main sitting areas divided by the stairs. There was also a bar space facing an elongated kitchen. We would definitely recommend occupying one of the high chairs to observe the art of cooking, behind the glass wall. Take a seat on one of the wooden plank bar stools which were really heavy but unfortunately had no foot rest. In addition, a small bar took over the far corner. There also was a corner with colourful vintage Japanese posters lined up side-by-side, creating a wallpaper like effect.
Our customized menus (very customized, with our names printed and transcribed in Japanese as well) as well as a couple glasses of water popped on the table almost instantly. Over a dozen dishes were planned for the evening, the list looked daunting, but the options were exciting so we jumped right into it. Our waitress Sierra was friendly and knowledgeable which turned out to be a great asset - saving us from the dizzying confusion of varying dishes. Sitting down, we paid a bit more attention to the bar area overlooking the grill. The kitchen bar decoration included a few pieces of stacked charcoal and dark slates used as plates. Everything looked and felt highly authentic. The kitchen bar decoration included a few pieces of stacked charcoal and slates used for plates. Everything looked and felt highly authentic.
Chicken Original Soup was our first dish. It was served with an interesting wooden spoon on the side. There was a tinge of vinegar and small chicken pieces floating inside the opaque broth. It is a great way to warm yourself up when the January winter storm is blowing outside. Green onion slices topped the dish, adding more to it. As strange as it might sound, we thought the wooden spoon added to the taste, and of course the experience.
While sipping on the soup, we ordered a couple of drinks. We chose their full bodied Kinmon sake as well as a glass of Umeshu or Plum Wine - Choya brand. The plum wine reminded us of sherry - maple nose, a bit strong and alcoholic, slightly sour and perfect to lighten and soothe the warm atmosphere, especially as it came served on the rocks.
Oshinko Moriawase (assorted Japanese pickles) was a very curious little appetizer. Some cabbage, lightly pickled cucumber and, our favorite, a type of root vegetable called Burdok with a hint of smokiness. To our surprise, none of the veggies were hot. The cabbage even had some curious floral tones to it. All was topped with thinly sliced dried pepper giving it an aromatic edge.
Our Chef Hiroki Takai did not make us wait long and Negima (chicken thigh & Tokyo scallion) popped on the table. An interesting, well cooked, but not dry, meat. We really enjoyed this skewer. It had a small portion of it wrapped in foil to use as a handle.
Zuri arrived very shortly. We actually never had gizzard before so it was an interesting experience. Very dense meat, almost cartilage-like with irony smell to it. Something interesting to nibble on, but not our favourite from the evening. A couple of curious objects also landed on our table and stayed with us thought - two wooden cylindrical containers. One was tall and empty, while the other one looked like a mini keg and had hole on top. It contained a unique, medium spice blend.
A quick and refreshing Cabbage with chicken miso paste salad followed (Nikumiso Kyabetsu). There were hints of ginger and some salty overtones. The sweet miso paste was actually a bit intense.
Tabasaki arrived - it was a simple chicken wing with next to no seasoning or sauce. Even though a bit oily, the meat turned out tender and not burnt, credit of the special charcoals. Lower burning temperature sealed the taste while not charring the skin too much. The addition the special spice at our table helped accentuate the dish.
Departing from grilled skewers, our next dish was Uzura Kushi Age - a deep fried quail egg. It came with a crispy tempura crust. With an overwhelming taste of the dense dark sauce, we could not taste the actual egg inside unfortunately. A bit of a miss. It was all starting to add up now, the reason for the second empty cylindrical container on the table - to leave the skewers and keep count of how many you have devoured.
Premium Gyu-Tongue was a very pleasant small treat with a side of lemon. Despite appearing oily initially, it was rather light, tender and flavourful. Two thin pieces were just enough to give us a taste. Great sharing experience if ordered alone. We squeezed the lemon wedges which really added to the dish.
Tsukune (chicken meatball) topped with sweet teriyaki sauce followed. The meat, chives, onion and peppers mix resulted in a meatball with a great airy texture which turned out to be surprisingly light and delicious.
We were very curious to try skewered chicken hearts (Hatsu). We found it a bit chewy and not overly flavourful. Almost as if biting through thick skin. An intriguing part of the chicken, it was.
By that time, our drinks were all but finished and we decided to go for another round. We chose two from their beer cocktails, this time. The Red Eye clamato one felt a bit watered down and did not impress us. It was definitively lacking a kick, a spice of some sort to make it more funky. Ginger beer, on the other hand, was considerably more fun. A sharper taste of Ginger Ale was not fighting too much with a softer beer making for an excellent duet.
We also had Reba (chicken liver) which Ma Cherie decided to skip after her first bite. Topped with sweet teriyaki sauce, the liver was very tender and with a typical strong smell of iron. It was a favour which can be described as eating thick smoke. While the dish appeared crusty and thick, under the crispy crust was soft tender meat.
Dishes kept on rolling in. Next one was Asparagus Panko - breaded, deep-fried asparagus wrapped in bacon and served with a wedge of lemon giving an otherwise heavy food a sense of freshness. It was an item not normally on their menu, but really worth being there. Once again, a nice smokey flavour from the bacon tickled our noses, yet the asparagus was refreshing.
Negi Shio Gyu stands for beef with scallion sauce. It was drizzled with sesame oil and topped with scallion sauce for a combination of a bit zesty, almost pickled taste. The beef itself was tender and fragrant.
Lastly, from our mains - Dashi Maki was a rather simple Japanese omelette. It was also served on a dark rock slate, the dish was airy and slightly salty. There was a definite achievement there in terms of making an otherwise simple omelette into this layers packed together which taste so delicious. The tiny portions did not feel that small due to abundance of taste.
Yaki Onigiri turned out to be somewhat of desert. The large rice ball was crispy on the outside with a caramelized crispy crust. Surprisingly, the inside was full of plum filling, which was not ovely sweet but rather gave this dish a tardy flavour. If you want to surprise your date with an appetizer looking desert - Yaki Onigry should be on your list.
Last came our Houji Cha Brûlée - roasted green tea cream brûlée. Maybe it was too late in the evening, maybe we were too full, but this last dish did not impress us. Too much fusion here. Maybe we are too used to a more traditional Cream Brûlée, as this one had a bit of bitter note.
We really enjoyed our evening of skewer adventures. It was impressive that we had almost every part of an animal on a stick - heart, liver, tongue, gizzard, wings, you name it - a tad disturbing and at the same time rather sustainable. Kintori Yakitori is all about these small bite-sized meals which would be ideally accompanying plenty of drinks. We were surprised that their drinks menu is not that extensive, especially the beer selection. Watch out though, they have sake on tap! That we must go back and try. It is easy to get overwhelmed here with so many options to choose from. A great option off their main menu is the Chef's Omakase - chef's yakitori selection of the day.