Yakitori K-1 San Diego
I love it when I can have a chance to expound on some of my favorite places to eat, but I guess there also comes a time when one must talk about the places that just don't register on their personal chow-worthy map... For me such was the reaction regarding Yakitori K-1. However...
...let me mention what I think is an outstanding place for yakitori; it's called Yakitori Yakyudori. I like it enough for it to find a space in my Chowhound profile. It's a small regional chain from Japan, and their only location outside of the home country is, lucky for us S.D. Chowhounds, in Hillcrest.
They use the most modest of means, which in the case of Yakyudori means using the imported traditional charcoal from Japan, bincho tan. (This is real, traditional charcoal; it has the look of tree branches because that's just what it is.) That, and some excellent chicken and a dash of salt and pepper is all that adorns most of what they make.
My personal favorite is their teba, or chicken wing. Believe me, if you've never had yakitori but think you've had chicken wings, you must try teba. And it's hard to explain this until you've actually experienced it for yourself, but I truly believe that one of the great secrets to their teba is how they carefully trim and arrange it on the skewer. Hatsu (heart) is also wonderful; it somehow manages to pull in the charcoally smokiness of the bincho into the meat in such a way that it absolutely transforms and animates the flavor.
Like many traditional ways of eating in Japan, (sushi, tempura, teppanyaki etc., and even with sukiyaki, okonomiyaki, or yakiniku, where you're actually the chef), the best and most uncompromising way to enjoy the simple pleasures of the food itself is to receive the items directly from the chef, which invariably means at the counter. In this way the yakitori will be served to you ***immediately*** after it is removed from the grill.
Otherwise in that brief moment after plating when it is parked on the pass, waiting until it is picked up by a server and brought to your table, which at this efficiently run restaurant may only be only 60 seconds or so, the optimal moment has already been irrevocably lost. Rather by sitting at the counter one does not allow for any other concession, be it for comfort or space (we are Chowhounds, afterall, aren't we?), to intrude upon that ephermeral moment where texture, temperature, taste, and umami-rich juciness meet.
And with apologies to Burger King, me thinks their tagline is put to much better use when enjoying the pleasures on offer at Yakitori Yakyudori:
"Dont' bother me; I'm eating..."
re: Captain Jack
As generally the meals at Yakitori Yakyudori end up being heavy on the protein, I like to balance my orders with a reasonable mix of veggies. One of my personal favorites are the pucchi tomato (petit tomatoes) which I like to sample a little at a time between items. It adds a nice, cleansing acidity to the meal.
Another veggie item that I enjoy is the okura, or okra. Okra, the same veggie that's used to thicken gumbos in the South, is used surprisingly often in Japanese cuisine. One may also consider the shishito, which are Japanese peppers. They combine the green "chlorophylly" taste of a green bell pepper, but with perhaps a touch more heat. Again all of these veggies are nice to keep around for small bites in-between items.
It's always good to also check out the specials board, though I've found that they don't always translate everything into English. So for the non-Japanese readers out there, a quick consult with the waitress is in order.
I just finished a meal there earlier tonight, and I enjoyed all three of the items that I ordered off of the specials board, one a medium rare liver, the second was chicken vein, and the third was beef with daikon oroshi (grated daikon) and ponzu sauce. The first two were only written on the board in Japanese, probably due to their "challenging" nature! They were all fantastic!
By keeping an open mind (for instance you might spot on their specials board or menu things such as gizzards, liver, heart, skin, vein, cartilidge, etc.), expect some new tastes, as well as some that may not rock your boat, and you'll do fine. And most importantly keep in mind that Japanese dining is not only about tastes, but textures as well. Though much on their menu serves up the double treat of both taste and texture, the items that place more of their emphasis on texture might seem a bit puzzling at first.
To be able to sample the most variety without getting overly full, I recommend that for most orders, which by the way comes in sets of 2 skewers per order, you split them between two people. But of course you must double up on the ones that you particularly enjoy!
You'll note that posted on the wall are two lists: the top ten items favored by their American customers, and the top ten items favored by their Japanese customers. For a real Chowhounder's adventure one must go there with like-minded foodies and order from "the other" list, whichever list that turns out to be for you... Order a pitcher of draft Kirin (or two) for your group, and you've got the makings for a very Chow-worthy evening!
Tried Yakitori Yakyudori last night after reading this thread. It was awesome. Had the octopus fritters (sort of like Spanish croquetas with pieces of octopus in the middle), the chiken thighs, and the pork cutlet. Each was artfully done. The flavors were phenomenal. I'll be back.
Thanks for the recommendation!
Kaire-rasu, we went to Yakitori K-1 today for lunch. Small menu but what we had was pretty good. Would definitely go back. We had the chicken thigh, chicken breast w/ green onion, chicken skin (my favorite) yakitori. Chicken was moist, flavorful and fresh. I got one of the bento boxes with ground chicken on rice, salad, tamago, potato salad and soybeans. The servings are good enough for a light meal or snack. Don't expect to leave stuffed unless you order a lot of things.
thank you for the report daantaat and taking one for the team! i was in the area sunday as well on my ethnic market crawl. I was deliberating going --but alas-- the uni donburi at mitsuwa is a call of the wild much too difficult to ignore.
How was the chicken saboro over the rice? The service? Kind regards.
it was my first time trying chicken saboro over rice, so I have no comparisons or idea of what it's supposed to taste like. however, the rice was fresh, chicken was fresh and not greasy and I wished I had a spoon to eat it with because it wouldn't stay on the chopstix very well and I can't put the whole bento box up to my face to shovel it in.
Service was friendly, the cashier came out to check on us once (adequate). We ate on the patio b/c it was a nice day. Generally, we don't ask much of service (unless it's at a 4-5 star place w/ multiple courses), so we thought it was fine.
would love to know your thoughts!
Ekomega, glad you enjoyed your visit. What did you have that you enjoyed the most? For me it's the wings or heart, but also many times what's on special that night. (In spite of what Anthony Bourdain has to say about specials, I feel it's easy to get a read on the few establishments where this rule can safely be put to rest, YY being one of them...)