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Mokutanya yakitori in Burlingame

c
Cary Oct 28, 2011 03:06 PM

www.themokutanya.com

I do wish more "different" restaurants would open up in Burlingame, and strategically, this restaurant works on paper. Yakitori joints, following on the footsteps of the ramen craze have become popular in the South Bay. The Peninsula could use a yakitoriya up here. The devil however, is in the details.

This place is owned and operated by Chinese folks. This is not a bad thing but don't expect some semi-retired yakitoriya owner with 20 years experience from Japan manning the grill.

I really wanted to like to this place, I really did, but the experience was lacking on a couple fronts.

Location: Relatively easy parking at a strip mall at the corner of California and Broadway. Near the 101 exit. This restaurant took around a year to come into existence. Quite a long time...I am in the area and all residents and business owners nearby got a city letter around a year ago saying so-and-so was applying for a liquor license.

Decor: Top notch. They clearly put a lot of money and thought into this. Bathroom is clever and unisex.

Food: This is where things go downhill. Prices are on par with Sumiya and peers.

Tonkotsu ramen: $8. Broth is upper-middle of the pack, which is actually good praise within the Bay Area. Ramen maniacs who desire the super fatty, super-gelatinous texture broths of Halu, Kahoo's kotteri, Santouka, and other top contenders may be disappointed here. Noodles were of good firmness. Looks factory bought, but of good quality. I can see some eaters requesting the noodles being made more firm, however. Toppings. Thumbs down. The default bowl comes with a few sprinkles of corn (barely noticeable), a handful of bean sprouts, some sliced chashu, bamboo shoots, a few strands of mushroom, green onions, and several squares of seaweed. A previous review mentioned an inclusion of half an egg, but we didn't get any. Presentation was poor. Go to any top ramenya, and the bowl of ramen is presented with the toppings arranged consistently and some what aesthetically. Here, the toppings are drowned and hidden by extra broth and barely visible; looks thrown in with little care. Does it affect the taste, no, but it affects the experience. The restaurant decor suggests a great experience, and it should carry into the food. Details, details...

Shoyu ramen: My friend ordered this. The broth was utterly disappointing. The taste of shoyu is there, but the tare used seemed devoid of any umami goodness, and there was no "weight" to the broth.

Skewers: Average. Some items seem dryer than what I have experienced here and in Japan, but it's within acceptable limits.
Portion size is average, although with the size of the skewers used, the meat can sometimes look small and comical.

Liquor: They are running grand opening specials on beer and alcohol. Sake selection is quite average. It appears like they scanned the sheet of paper a distributor handed to them, and said "okay, whatever...what's next?". The wines look assembled from BevMo that had ratings of 90 points+. As an oenophile, I would have liked a bigger wine list, but I concede that the restaurant doesn't need to focus on Western wines. At the very least maybe throw some Champagne in there? Maybe a gewurtraminer or dry riesling? Those can go well with the menu.

Service: Enthusiastic, cheery, and helpful. The hostess tripled as server and bus boy. She really wants you to have a good experience, but the kitchen is not helping her out.

We went early, and were the only ones there at the time.
One ramen bowl came out three minutes after the first one. If I had waited for my friend's bowl to come before digging in, noodles can go from firm to noticeably less firm in that amount of time.

Skewers were timed oddly, but we didn't order a lot so there wasn't a large sample size to work with. The killer was when the kitchen forgot to send out one pair of skewers. The hostess checked and the kitchen claimed everything was sent out. Wrong.

Overall, there are a lot of details and flat out errors that need to be resolved. Decor and service can only take you so far...

-----
Sumiya
2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95051

Santouka
675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129

  1. Dave.Pitinga Dec 10, 2011 02:33 PM

    Great hours (I went there at 12:30 AM), good chicken livers, and an ambiance that makes it the poor person's Bar Agricole. What's not to like? (Of course, squares should probably stay home.)

    1. wolfe Oct 28, 2011 03:18 PM

      Good for you, thank you for the followup.
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/812788

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