Teki (狄) yakitori, Hiroshima
One of the places I had on my priority list for Hiroshima is this yakitori place under the tracks at Yokogawa station. Yokogawa station is in Nishi-ku, a residential section just a bit northwest of the city center, accessible by tram or it is the first stop on the commuter train going west (towards Miyajima). There’s a lot of activity around the station in the evenings with a lot of little restaurants and bars in the little alleys just around the station. Teki seems like it’s been there for a while. The interior is old and slightly worn, but it seems to have a loyal patronage, and if you don’t get there early enough, you’ll end up waiting to score a seat at the counter.
We chose to go for an early dinner on a Friday evening before the evening rush crowds started pouring in. Maybe it was because the there weren’t many people in there yet, but Teki emanates warmth, like a friendly neighborhood bar. The master of the house is a kind old gentleman who seems to do more delegating from his perch than doing the actual cooking, which is handled by the young apprentices. This isn’t a standard chicken-oriented yakitori bar, but the specialties of the house revolve around interesting cuts of beef and pork. Teki is gets a lot of press about a yakitori item called tan-teki (a certain cut of beef tongue), which is the highest priced item at 1000 yen for one skewer (everything else is priced around 200-300 yen). When we inquired about the tan-teki, the master sighed and let us know that he’s been having a difficult time procuring it recently, and so it wasn’t available. Drats. That was one of the reasons why we went early.
We put ourselves in the hands of the master and let him serve us their house specialties—“omakase shimasu.” Our first piece was a cut of pork called sagari. Sagari is a cut of pork near the ribs, and one pig yields only about 1 kilogram of this cut. In a recent post about a yatai called Tsukasa in Fukuoka, I mistakenly mentioned that it’s a cut of beef, because that’s what I thought I was eating. The meat was very red (cooked medium rare at that yatai in Fukuoka), and at teki, the sagari tasted a lot more like filet steak than a cut of pork. It was very tender and, well, beefy in taste. I even remember my disbelief when I was told it was pork, but I guess I repressed all that out since all I could remember was that I thought I ate beef. No less, it was quite an eye-opener. Other skewers came out in succession, several minutes apart, for a nice pace: pork-wrapped with shiso and plum paste, chicken thigh, beef tongue, pork and green onions, another beef skewer... there were a few more I’m blanking on, but after they finished with their specialties, we were asked to order individual skewers. We made sure to get more of that sagari, and a few of the standards. It didn’t seem like a lot of food, but we were pretty stuffed, perhaps because we were eating loads of the fresh cabbage they kept piling onto our plates (I can’t seem to have enough of the cabbage).
While I appreciate that I can get ultra-premium sushi, or have some formal high-end kaiseki meals, I really seek out the simple places like Teki when I travel to Japan.